Before the pandemic UK research was conducted by BE.Spoke and it showed that around 56% of larger companies had fewer than 10% of their team working from home. Another report conducted since the lockdown (by Willis Towers Watson) of leading UK employers, shows that 75% of the workforce are now working from home.

The virus meant that many companies had to overnight change the way they work in order to stay in business. Many employees were told previously that they couldn’t work remotely as it would have an impact on productivity and that security and equipment would be compromised…… in other words they think “tha gets nowt done!”

So, what does the reality of remote working really look like?

The same report from Willis Towers Watson showed that:-

  • 22 per cent of companies said there had been “no or a positive” impact in recent weeks
  • 15 per cent showed a “significant fall”
  • 22 per cent show only a “small, negative” impact.

(The remaining companies were not yet able to see the impact)

Being trusted with your own workload and timetable can be quite empowering and I for one know the benefits of being able to work without the shirt and tie on! Working from home also means being able to take a midday break because I started early (currently this is known as home schooling but my children will certainly back me on the decision not to pursue a career change permanently!).

home schooling

At other times, I choose to work late because it suits me and I’m in the middle of something that I don’t want to stop.

I think most of us would agree it gives us a lot more ownership of our jobs.

Sometimes though, I know I need a more centred workplace, without all the usual distractions that I have at home.

The “2020 the future of work” report from Coworking Insights revealed that many are experiencing challenges:-

  • 46% of individuals struggled with isolation and loneliness
  • 35% are struggling with motivation
  • 46% are finding themselves doing more than they would normally
  • 55% are like me, struggling with the at home distractions

These concerns were on top of all of the obvious challenges like; lack of equipment, no dedicated space and poor broadband connectivity.

Daniel Robinson, Independent Quantity Surveyor and Coworker said….”Having an alternative workspace away from the household allows me to separate work from home life which is important to be able to do fully focus on my job when working and then when I leave the office the ability to switch off QS mode and into dad mode when at home. This gives me clarity so I can more productive in both roles”

So, whilst there is an appetite for some to return to a purpose-built workspace, the issue remains that we need to maintain social distancing and many offices in Sheffield would not able to cope with a full staff return. The answer needs to be in varied solutions, and we know of many businesses throughout South Yorkshire who are adopting new flexible ways of working.

I think that going forward the new norm is likely to consist of a combination of many options:-

  • Working from home, for those who are able, without any real drop in productivity
  • Flexible office spaces, with different uses dependant on the requirements of your team and your customers
  • Reduced or staggered office hours
  • The use of third-party spaces, like coworking or rent per hour spaces
  • Short term solutions that can accommodate those who need to access office space closer to their own homes, this would significantly help those who have long commutes on public transport
  • The use of large open spaces for physical meetings

I’m not sure office working will ever return to the “good ol days” of 2019 (what a distant memory) but I’m sure that we will find a new way forward that will work for businesses, employees and customers.