2020 was a year of extremes. And yet, despite the devastating impact that Covid had in many ways, the shift within the global white-collar workforce was something quite extraordinary. There was no office to commute to, no face to face meetings. Businesses were forced to swiftly digitalise their teams to be able to survive and people worked from their living areas, bedrooms, kitchen tables or wherever they could find the space. Statistics show the amount of people working from home rose from 4.7% in 2019 to a staggering 43.1% in April 2020 (TheHomeOfficeLife).
Too good to come back from
For many this change in working location wasn’t unwelcome - suddenly employees found themselves with a few extra hours each day once their commute was from one room to another rather than into an office location. This extra time benefited family structures and those without children could use these hours at their own leisure, i.e. knocking up a sourdough or rolling out the yoga mat before 9am. The historical balance of power between employee and employer tipped into the former’s favour and once individuals got a taste of autonomy to structure their workday a line was crossed that would be difficult to come back from.
A post pandemic restructure
As we slowly returned to normal in many ways, the practice of working from home remained. People had grown accustomed to a more balanced way of life and it would take a lot to entice workers back to commuting 5 days a week. Enter the idea of ‘hybrid working’, a more flexible approach to the office-based roles pre-pandemic supported by 44% of UK employees who wished to split their time between the office and at home (source). Employers had seen first-hand that people could actually thrive working from home and that there were multiple benefits for a company - including significantly reduced office costs. Thus began a wave of ending leases on office buildings and signing up to more flexible co-working offerings instead. Most importantly, trust had built between employers and employees and digital communication was better than ever, with Slack and Zoom becoming as normal as popping the kettle on.
A more diverse workforce
As employers realised roles could be completely remote if needed it began to open up a new world of opportunities for recruitment. A small pool of local candidates gave way to the global workforce - filling a role with the person that was right rather than on the doorstep. This has no doubt led to a more inclusive and expansive workforce. Unsurprisingly, one of the easiest working from home transitions was from the IT and Tech sectors, both of which have historically been ahead of the curve in terms of creating digital capabilities in terms of communication and working remotely. For employers this meant a wider pool of talent and those looking for a new role would have options perhaps never available before, such as companies open to remote working abroad or a hybrid model.
Move forward - never backwards
In essence, businesses must realise that we cannot go backwards in the way we work within organisations. If the past two years have taught us anything it is that when we all pull together to adapt and work towards a common goal it is possible to achieve amazing results, even in the face of adversity. WIth 82% of people citing flexible working options as important when looking at a new role (Tuc.org), employers must be open to a home-based working model. In fact many are already making brave and progressive steps into a four-day week and introducing benefits such as unlimited holiday allowance which have manifested from the movement of employees seeking an improved work-life balance over increased salaries. Less stress and more time to do the things you love? This could be the most beneficial outcome of all.