Since the covid-19 crisis forced offices to close, millions of people have begun working remotely. Ten years ago this might have been disastrous, but recent technological advances, such as reliable video conferencing, mean that working from almost anywhere is now a possibility and no longer affects our ability to complete tasks. Given a taste of working from home, surveys suggest that 57% of Brits want to keep doing so once the pandemic is over. Flexible working, therefore, is becoming an expectation rather than a luxury.
For businesses, virtual teams not only save office space and travel budget for companies, but also facilitate great recruitment options by removing location as a barrier to employment.
In our last blog, we introduced our series on flexible working and delved into what it means for some of our Lane4 employees. This week, we are going to present both sides of the home-office debate to find the benefits and pitfalls of each. In this blog, we explore the benefits of homeworking, and why you should consider working from home tomorrow! You can read the opposite side of the argument here.
According to our interviewees, there were four main positives to flexible working. Let us know in the comments if you agree with them…
The positives to flexible working
1. Greater focus, fewer distractions
For our interviewees, working from home often means having more focus, and with it an opportunity to move forward with personal projects and tasks. Laura, Lane4’s Commercial Director, recounted how overcrowding at the previous Lane4 office affected quality of work:
“For me, an office needs to be a social space, but also allow for peace and quiet when you need it. Lane4’s old office couldn’t offer this as we had outgrown it. By the end, there was nowhere to have a phone call and you couldn’t even count on getting a desk when you arrived.”
Having control over one’s working location and hours can improve efficiency by boosting focus and reducing work breaks. Being away from colleagues also equates to less chance of being distracted: according to an employee engagement survey, 91% of people who work from home feel they get more done than in the office. Nicola, Talent Acquisition Coordinator, also suggested that as a result of being away from the office, she looked forward to working there more:
“Since coming to Lane4 and having the option of working at home, I enjoy coming into the office much more. At the moment, I do one day a week working from home, which I use as my admin day. Being able to get some of my more personal work done at home means that when I am in the office I can socialise and have the face-to-face meetings which I want to have.”
2. Your productivity is higher as you are working at your own rhythm
Everybody has a different work rhythm, and flexible working allows employees to recognise theirs and maximise their output accordingly. This could mean shifting the prescribed 9-5 to start earlier or finish later in the day. This provides the opportunity for people to work during their most productive hours, however unusual they may be.
Nicola recounted her experience of how flexible working can act as a catalyst for improving productivity:
“Flexible working to me isn’t just working from home or soft hours, it’s being able to do your work whenever is best for you to be the most efficient. I know some people are more efficient when they work from midnight to 4am in the morning, as that is their time of peak performance and productivity. Being allowed to indulge in that, to me, is flexible working because the message is ‘they are trusted to get their job done, regardless of the time they choose to do the work for it’.”
“Some of the members of my team work better starting slightly later because they aren’t morning people, and that is good for them. I don’t like working very early or very late, so I try and balance that where possible.”
3. It saves time and money, and lifestyle is improved as a consequence
How long did it take you to get to work this morning? And how much did it cost? The average UK employee will spend around 400 days of their working life commuting, costing £146 per month. It should come as no surprise, then, that a recent report suggests that 70% of people work remotely at least once a week! Commuting is costly in terms of time, stress, the environment. The fact it is still considered the norm for most of the population means we are failing to utilise hard-earned technological advances.
Laura shared her experience in her previous job of a very lengthy commute which offset her work-life balance significantly:
“For much of my working life I spent 2.5 hours a day commuting. Not only was this exhausting, it also placed severe limits on what I was able to do in my non-working hours. In these circumstances, working from home was great because it freed up those hours for leisure and family.”
Homeworking can save time and money, meaning these resources can be directed towards other, more enjoyable things, as is the case for Nicola:
“Working from home contributes massively to bettering my work life balance. When I work at home I start an hour earlier because I don’t have the commute into work, which means I finish much earlier and then have such a long evening ahead of me to do anything I want.
4. You can balance work and family more easily
The days of having to choose between children and a career are largely behind us: in the UK, 73.7% of mothers work. The choice between parenting and having a career is no longer as relevant; instead, the dilemma becomes how to juggle both. Homeworking, for Natalie, Marketing and Communications Director, provided a much-needed solution to this conundrum:
“Hard-and-fast clocking on and off time is outdated and certainly wouldn’t maximise my contribution to or engagement with work. That doesn’t mean I don’t have clear deliverables, targets, and ambition, but I have the freedom to manage my time as I see fit to achieve them.”
Natalie, experienced a change in attitude towards office-based working when she became a parent. She now chooses to adopt a more fluid approach by lessening the divide between work and home:
“Homeworking means I can drop my son off at school, work late into the evening if I want, not miss the school play, and those choices don’t have to be at the expense of my career.”
Any guilt Natalie may feel about leaving the office early some days she attributes to “a hangover from an outdated presenteeism mindset”. This attitude is testament to a new way of working, one that allows us to be a parent and an employee, and thrive at both. Homeworking can be a part of that.
What does this mean for you?
One idea that emerged from our interviews was that the entire premise of flexible working relies on a culture of trust built by an organisation. Our next blog in this series will explore exactly that: how employees and business owners can create a culture where flexible working can thrive.
If you haven't read part 1 of the flexible working series, click here.