Companies have now seen that the previous concerns they had around employees working from home, and the need for present-ism, were largely overblown and that productivity was often higher at home.
So, lockdown is over and everyone is saying ‘let’s get back to normal’.
Great in many ways, but the pandemic has provided a great petri dish for experimenting around ways to work, forcing many companies, by necessity, into a massive trial of flexible work and work from home.
So, let’s not lose the learnings from this and just all drift back to BAU in our offices.
In general staff loved many aspects of working from home – more time with the family, less commuting, more productivity (less interruptions), no need for pants (oops, did I say that out loud!) and a more relaxed atmosphere.
For some there were downsides. A lack of human contact – worsened by the lockdown; challenges completing some tasks often due to lack of specific equipment or poor internet and not having suitable spaces at home for working.
Think stories of pressing ironing boards into service as impromptu desks; families rotating through the one good office depending which partner or child had a video conference; and people video conferencing from cars and recording podcasts from cupboards or under duvets.
A lot of people are reluctant to go back to the office, and not because of germ phobia but because now they have sampled the benefits of working from home they don’t want to give them up.
Companies have now seen that the previous concerns they had around work from home, and the need for present-ism, were largely overblown and in fact productivity was often higher at home.
Staff could work some of what was commuting time and fit work around other tasks often resulting in longer real hours worked.
For some staff working from home is particularly advantageous – for those with children it takes a lot of stress out of school pickups, sick children and family organisation.
For those with health or disability issues it just makes life so much easier as often travel is a hassle, the facilities at the office may not be as good as at home and they may have increased risk of picking up illness from others in the office.
Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero commented: “As we move to Level 1, let’s not lose the gains we enjoyed in lockdown like options to ‘work from home’.
“We’ve proved it can work for many employers and staff. What works for disabled people helps build a more inclusive New Zealand. We are 24 percent of the Team of Five Million.”
Whilst 100 percent work from home may not be the best option, the ability to allow some staff to work from home and others to elect to do one or two days a week from home would not only be great for staff recruitment and retention (in fact, I suspect going forward it might be something requested or stipulated by staff) it also reduces the office footprint required; reduces traffic congestion and air pollution from commuting which will help meet companies sustainability goals.
Recently AMP, which has around 350 staff, announced it plans to move from its CBD office spaces to smaller suburban-based offices more focused around meeting spaces and with less desks, with many staff working from home some, or all, of the time.
A survey of its staff found 70 percent of workers preferred a combination of working from home and the office, while 22 percent said they wanted to work primarily from home. Just eight percent said they wanted to work from the office all the time.
They may be the first but certainly won’t be the last.
CATHY PARKER is the director of Adrenalin Publishing, the owner of Management magazine. She also sits on a number