Employers shouldn’t ditch offices after Covid

Home working

Flexibilty Works has produced new research which shows the majority of Scots would like to blend home working with being in the office #NeverMoreNeeded

13th August 2020 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Employers are being urged not to axe their offices after Covid-19.

A social business that promotes flexible and home working in Scotland is cautioning employers against closing down offices completely in light of coronavirus and instead is urging them to think creatively about where employees will work in future.

Flexibility Works, which is funded and supported by the Scottish Government and the Hunter Foundation, says employers might be tempted to cut costs by closing offices after seeing how well employees performed working from home during lockdown. But the organisation says most employees want a blended approach working at home and in the office, and the key to continued high performance is giving staff more control over where, when and how they work, rather than creating permanent home working for all.

Nikki Slowey, director and co-founder of Flexibility Works, said: “Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the default Monday to Friday 9-5 office working pattern was becoming outdated. It was a legacy from the past that we just couldn’t quite shake off. Now we’ve witnessed four months of mass home working, which has proved people can work effectively from home. We’re delighted at how many employers have completely shifted mindset. We have long championed the benefits of home working. But in a strange twist, we are now promoting the benefits of the office too.

“It’s clear from our own research the majority employees would welcome more home working. But while some want this permanently, there are others who don’t want to work from home at all. Some people don’t have adequate space or they feel lonely and more anxious at home. Even those who are happy to work from home still say they need some face-to-face interaction, whether that’s one-to-ones with their manager, meetings with clients, creative brainstorms, career development and training or for team morale. Demand for home working has increased massively, but the majority of us want a blended approach combining home and office working.

“Ultimately it is about giving staff more choice in where they work, that’s what flexible working is all about and that’s what drives up performance and productivity.”

Almost half (49%) of the UK workforce was entirely home-based at the height of the pandemic, compared with pre-coronavirus figures for Scotland showing around 30% could work from home at least some of the time.

A new poll by Flexibility Works shows almost three quarters (74%) of Scots want to work flexibly, or more flexibly than they are currently, after the pandemic has passed.

According to research by Direct Line Life Insurance, 44% of UK workers (more than 13 million people) plan to ask their employer for changes to their long-term working pattern once the pandemic has subsided.

There are well-documented business benefits from allowing staff to work flexibly, such as increased engagement, motivation and productivity. Allowing employees to work from home means companies can recruit from a wider geographical pool of candidates and reduce their carbon footprint too.

For employees, home working means they save time and money through not having to travel to work, they aren’t limited to applying for jobs within travelling distance, they can more easily flex work around home life and spend more time doing what they want, all of which is good for mental health and wellbeing.

 

Many progressive Scottish companies are already thinking about how their offices might be used after the pandemic, and crucially they are including feedback from employees as part of the process.

Economic development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) usually has 300 staff based in 15 offices across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. A recent all-staff survey showed 97% would like to continue at least some home working each week. A total of 88% said they’d like at least two days a week at home and 66% said they’d like at least three days a week working from home.

Helen Herd, senior HR manager, said: “Being part of the communities we serve and close to our client base is important to support economic recovery and development across the region, so we will continue to have a physical presence. But there may be opportunities for more co-location with other public sector partners and community organisations and the creation of local hubs to work, collaborate and host events.”

Flexibility Works is hosting an online ‘spaces and places’ webinar for employers to help them consider how to create effective workplaces at home and in the office. The event takes places at 11am on Thursday 20 August.

For more information and free resources for Scottish employees and employers on how to work remotely, or manage remote workers, visit the organisation’s website.