Is working from home the future?

Amanda Baggott our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 26 May 2020
A few months ago, many of us could only dream about being able to work from home. Now, however, remote working has become a forced reality for many workers in the UK and around the world, with research suggesting that 60% of the UK’s adult population are working from home during lockdown. Whilst many professionals – and indeed employers – were unprepared for this sudden shift to remote working, the forced experiment has yielded positive results across a variety of industries and disciplines.

This has left employers and employees with a question over the long-term viability of more flexible work arrangements. While there are many functions that simply cannot work from home, for those that can, could this present an entirely new way of working?

Remote working: Then and now

Before 2020, working from home was something many office workers thought of as a rare luxury – something that could happen occasionally, with employer permission. The Office of National Statistics says that just 30% of UK employees worked from home at all during 2019, despite overwhelming demand. In Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work survey, 99% of respondents said they would like to work remotely at least some of the time, with flexibility an increasingly sought-after benefit by jobseekers. Employers, however, haven’t always been as positive about home working as workers, with reservations around productivity levels, collaboration and communication when workers are not physically in the same place.

Now, the majority of office-based UK workers have been trialling remote working for the past two months, whether they wanted to or not. Whilst there are many industries and roles where working from home isn’t possible, in the majority of Hanover’s sectors, working from home – with more flexible schedules – has been the positive outcome of Covid-19.

Who benefits from flexible and remote working?

While professionals have long demanded more flexible and remote working options, it’s not just workers who benefit from these types of arrangements. There is a raft of business benefits that come from home working, including significant gains in productivity. A two-year Stanford study found that home working can lead to a 13% improvement in performance, as well as a 50% reduction in resignations and increase in company profit.

As for employees and contractors, working from home can allow levels of flexibility that the traditional office structure simply does not provide. With an estimated 90% of the UK workforce usually commuting to work – and the number of people commuting for more than an hour rising by 31% since 2011 – it's no surprise that more than half of commuters polled by Populus reported an increase in stress levels during their journey to and from work. With overcrowding and delays stemming from an increasingly under pressure public transport system and infrastructure, the workday commute is becoming unappealing for many throughout the UK and will likely be more so in a post-Covid landscape. 

We won’t want – and perhaps won’t be able - to board packed trains, tubes and buses at rush hour, particularly now we know what we’re capable of in a remote setting. We’ve had many conversations with clients and professionals alike over the past few weeks, and the resounding feedback is that the companies that are prepared to embrace technology and approach work in a more flexible way are the ones who are faring the best under the lockdown conditions. At Hanover, we can help you adapt to this new way of working and provide guidance on everything from video interviewing to remote working, as well as providing the same high levels of executive search solutions that we are known for.

How is diversity fostered through remote working?

One of remote and flexible working’s most obvious benefits is inclusivity. For those organisations that allow home workers to set their own schedules to suit their natural routines, anyone who has access to the right tools and technologies can partake. This means people who would otherwise not be able to travel to and work in a dedicated office space now have a new world of opportunity opening up. 

According to CIPD, flexible working can allow parents to return to work, give people with health conditions and disabilities more career opportunities, reduce the gender pay gap and help carers to balance their careers with responsibilities. By removing the need to travel to and be present in a space for set hours of the day, organisations allow professionals to work in a way that suits them best. This means that looking beyond the physical limitations of a business office can open up a much broader talent pool than ever before. 

At Hanover, we know that diversity and inclusion is one of the most important business considerations on our clients’ agendas. By implementing a more flexible policy around remote and home working, organisations can go some way to improving in this area.

What might the future look like?

Discussions are already underway as to how the business landscape may adjust back to a post-lockdown environment. Some people are already back in the office, while some essential workers haven’t left at all. For those organisations that did close down during the lockdown period, what might the future look like?

According to research conducted by O2, 45% of UK workers predict a permanent change in their workplaces’ approach to flexible working post-lockdown. This is reflected in Gartner research which says 74% of CFOs and finance leaders will move at least 5% of their previously on-site workforce to remote positions as a result of Covid-19. CFOs who have been under immense pressure to control costs during the pandemic will see real value in a remote workforce.

Based on our industry discussions over the previous weeks, we expect many clients to continue some level of flexible working for the foreseeable future. We may see an eventual return to the workplace for set hours during the week, on alternate days or in small groups, but this will be dictated by travel and safety restrictions, as well as appetite among the
workforce. As long as businesses can adapt their infrastructure, implement new technologies and systems to ensure efficient workflow and nurture a collaborative, communicative remote workforce, we can expect to see this trend take hold well into the future.

Take advantage of Hanover’s industry expertise 

Hanover’s deep knowledge and experience in sectors including asset managementwealth management, insurance and fintech means we make it our business to stay ahead of industry trends and developments. We welcome conversations with professionals and businesses alike, and would love to talk about your next industry move. Contact us here or view our latest insights for more news.

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