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Working from home has improved productivity — survey

Number of employees that work from home is expected to double

With many people now working from home due to the coronavirus, some two thirds of employers in a recent survey say that homer workers are more or as productive as when they were in the workplace.

The survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) shows the shift to home working over the pandemic has been a positive experience for most employers, with employees experiencing better work-life balance (cited by 61 percent of employers), enhanced employee collaboration (43 percent) and improved focus (38 percent).   

And employers now expect the proportion of their workforce that works from home regularly to double to 37 percent of the workforce on average after the crisis is over, compared to the pre-pandemic incidence average of 18 percent.

Home offices are likely to increase in the future

Organisations also predict the proportion of the workforce that works from home all the time to more than double to 22 percent, compared to nine percent before the crisis.  

The CIPD says that overall, 28 percent of employers report that the increase in home working has boosted productivity, with another 37 percent saying it has not impacted productivity levels. Only 28 percent of employers reported a decrease in productivity.   

“The step-change shift to home working to adapt to lockdowns has taught us all a lot about how we can be flexible in ways of working in the future. This should be a catalyst to change long held paradigms and beliefs about work for the benefit of many,” according to Peter Cheese, CEO of CIPD.

CHEESE… his should be a catalyst to change long held paradigms

“Employers have learnt that, if supported and managed properly, home working can be as productive and innovative as office working and we can give more opportunity for people to benefit from better work-life balance. This can also help with inclusion and how we can create positive work opportunities across our economies,” he said.

“But it doesn’t suit everyone and increasingly organisations will have to design working arrangements around people’s choice and personal preference over where and when they would like to work, whilst also meeting the needs of the business,” Cheese said.

But there are also some negatives to working from home. The research noted the challenges of managing home workers with employers highlighting reduced staff mental wellbeing (47 percent), problems with staff interaction/co-operation (36 percent) and difficulties with line managing home workers (33 percent) and monitoring their performance (28 percent).    

Nonetheless, the CIPD research titled Embedding New Ways of Working , based on a survey of more than 1,000 employers and 12 in-depth organisation case studies, shows benefits far outweigh challenges.

In fact a large majority of employers intend to introduce or expand the use of home working once the crisis is over. 

But other forms of flexible working for employees who are unable to work from home are far less likely to get the nod — including annualized hours, term-time working, compressed hours or job sharing.

This kind of thinking should be avoided according to Cheese.

“Employers will also have to redouble efforts to introduce flexible working arrangements for staff unable to work from home otherwise they will increasingly have a two-tier workforce of those who have opportunity to benefit from home working and flexibility and those who don’t,” Cheese said.  

“It is often essential workers and lower paid front line staff who are not able to work from home and it is crucial these workers are not left behind when we think about flexible working. Making the right to request flexible working a day one right would support the uptake of a wider range of flexible working beyond home working,” he said. 

The biggest challenges reported by employers include the unsuitability of jobs to be done from home (48 percent), reduced well-being among staff (47 percent), reduced staff interaction (36 percent) and the effectiveness of line management of home-based workers (33 percent). 

Overall, about third of employers say they expect to introduce new forms of flexible working or increase the uptake of existing flexible working arrangements more widely, once lockdown restrictions end. Where changes are planned, working from home regularly (70 percent) or all the time (45 percent) are most commonly cited, followed by part-time working (40 percent), flexi-time (39 percent) and compressed hours (25 percent).

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