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July 28, 2020

Offices are reopening. But will it ever be the same?

The State of Smart Work

First, it’s crucial to recognise that change in the workplace has caught up to us.
During quarantine, workers saw first-hand that not only can they do their jobs from home, they can do so on a long-term basis. And that’s resulted in millions of workers who want to continue working from home.

According to various recent polls:

• More than 1.54 million people work from home for their main job, up from 884,000 10 years ago.

• Research found that 60% of the UK’s adult population worked from home during the Coronavirus lockdown. On average, each of these workers will save £44.78 by cutting out things like commuting
and buying lunch out.

• Two different surveys both found that around two-thirds of employees say they’re more productive when working from home.

Benefits of working from home

Increased productivity

Employees generally appreciate a company that allows them to work from home and research has suggested that this could also boost productivity for the employer.

• 65% of workers said they would be more productive in a home office than a normal office
• 75% of workers say they will be more productive due to reduced distractions
• 83% of employees feel they do not need an office to be productive
• Two-thirds of employer’s report increased productivity for remote workers compared to in-office workers
• The average daily commute time in the UK is now 59 minutes.

This means that people working from home will save almost five hours a week that they would normally spend in transit. As well as being good news for employees, some of this extra time may be spent working.

Savings on working from home per region

Londoners are saving the most money by working from home, at an average of £57.78 per week, possibly reflecting the capital’s high commuting costs. Second biggest savers are those working in Wales, who are saving £50.16 per week.

Other UK regions where workers report saving the least of all regions are Scotland (£35.47), North East (£35.65) and South West (£37.47).

It’s not hard to see where these beliefs came from: smart working means no commute, and it means working in a more familiar, more easily controlled environment. It also means more productivity, higher job satisfaction and an improved work-life balance.
Then there are the most visible players in the business world; leading companies like Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Amazon and Facebook have extended smart working options almost to the end of 2020, setting a prominent example of how extensive smart work policies can be.

Looking to Tomorrow

What we have to conclude from all this is that the balance in workplace convention has shifted. Once upon a time, we said that employees want smart work options; we considered smart working as an option benefit, a preferred add-on that can make your company stand out.

But in the near future, it will be more accurate to say that employees expect smart work options. Not only have workers seen the system function and had a chance to enjoy its benefits, but they’re also seeing companies all around them continue to make use of it.

So, having said all that, it seems right to return to that initial question: “Should smart working be the new normal?”

Answering that question depends on how you want to answer a different one: how competitive do you want your business to be in terms of talent retention and acquisition?
The way employee expectations are being set, it seems the most promising workers out there will not only be interested in smart work, they’ll have plenty of companies who offer this opportunity if yours doesn’t provide it.

In other words, if your “new normal” doesn’t include smart work, it’s unlikely to include a set of skilled employees, either. By now, preferences have changed, and already the market is beginning to adapt — for employers, that means either keep up, or get left behind.

By Hollie Boyd

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