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08 December 2020

As working from home fatigue sets in Given that it was a status we were plunged into, many companies have reported that the majority of their employees fared really well working from home during 2020, with many welcoming the changes to lifestyle and the pace of living that home working imposed. A number of corporates have also been able to evidence that productivity has roughly remained the same. It would seem then that there is a strong case for this style of working to continue going forward, regardless of the pandemic. However, with the novelty worn off and the facts behind the figures assembled, the reality is that many of us are climbing the walls at home and ready to get back into the office environment in some form or another as soon as we can. So what does the future really hold? The here and now - Last month, Personnel Today reported that the advice to work from home is likely to remain in place through to next Easter when it is hoped that tighter tier structuring, easy access to rapid testing and the roll out of vaccinations will have stemmed the infection rate making it safer for a mass return to the workplace. During his period of self-isolation in November, the prime minister took part in a virtual news conference to unveil the government۪s Covid-19 Winter Plan and encouraged employers to continue to allow for a greater degree of home working, unequivocally stating that anyone who can work from home should do so. - And what that means to us From the get go, in the early stages of lockdown, there was some indication that those forced to work from home were living less healthily. Many employees, working on kitchen tables or in spare bedrooms, hadn۪t got the correct ergonomic furniture in place, so aches and pains were rife. Surveys also indicated that people were tending to drink more alcohol, exercise less and eat the wrong foods back in the Spring of 2020; sleep patterns were broken and there was a general feeling of raised anxiety linked to the individual۪s new remote status and uncertainty related to both the virus and the economy. Now, we۪re further along. Most of us have ironed out any technical issues, expectations have been managed and we have sorted out our home furniture, along with several other issues. However the prolonged nature of the working from home status is starting to leave us a little jaded. We are all ready for change. Feeling tired According to a recent survey as featured in the HR Director and carried out by membership organisation, Resilience First, more than half of remote workers are now suffering from working from home fatigue. For some, there is a straight forward reason for this fatigue longer working hours. Having initially embraced the concept that working from home means more free time, (no more commuting and with the peace and quiet to work uninterrupted without the general office hubbub to block out), many are now finding that this is, in fact, a misconception. With a blurring of the lines between downtime being at home۪ and working from home, a lot of us have found that we۪re simply never off. Making it work However, the change we۪re looking forward to doesn۪t necessarily reflect a return to the office and working life as it was pre-2020. As part of a flexible work strategy, working from home definitely works - in principle and on paper. However, it۪s a question of choice and once choice is removed from the equation, along with the novelty of being able to work in pyjamas and with easy access to the fridge, then the negatives become far too apparent, as we have found this year. An article on Entrepreneur India cites a sense of belonging as being fundamental to the employee experience. In India, many employees live away from family and friends for work and so social distancing and isolation from colleagues have deprived them of the basic interaction essential to well-being. The same article also notes that creativity and innovation suffer when employees are not able to integrate as the sharing of ideas is less fluid and hampered by the remoteness. These points support the case that some time spent in a shared environment, with our co-workers, is the best way, allowing working from home to remain in the mix to some degree. Finding a way forward The working situation for office staff during 2020 has provided companies and their employees with a useful experiment; a taster of what work could be like and the chance to compare home working to office working to see which comes out on top. Those who have previously dreamt of the luxury of working from home now realise that working in daily isolation can be monotonous and not always satisfactory. The overwhelming feedback appears to be that most office workers, as suggested, would welcome a mixed approach. We envisage that Freedom Working will be the concept to take us forward, with most individuals opting for a hybrid model consisting of some time spent working from home, alongside a couple of days in the office each week. Only when the virus is muted and maintained will we fully be able to explore this concept, however all survey results indicate that a style of working based around the individual, the task in hand and personal choice will be what drives the office of the future and its design. For further information on our planned approach to Freedom Working, give us a call today.

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