Beware The Effects Of Working From Home

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2020 has been a testing time and most businesses will be glad to see the back of it! There have been positives and evidence of the old Dunkirk spirit throughout this pandemic though. I’m sure you’ll recall when F1 teams were drafted in to urgently design and manufacture ventilators and then there was the Zoom boom which saw the epic rise of collaboration tools to enable staff and businesses to work from home. But on that last point, are we not all a bit zoomed out and craving human contact, and what is the impact of everyone working from home?

We understand that there is a global pandemic gripping the world right now, that personal safety must come first and that the go to work/don’t go to work messages have been confusing at times, but some of the stories and figures we’re hearing about are staggering.

When employees were encouraged to begin to return to offices in September figures were released warning of a £15.3bn hit to UK GDP every year if pandemic-levels of home working continue. That is because workers aren’t going to coffee shops, grabbing lunch at cafes, restaurants or going for beers after work. There’s no pre or post gym visits for office workers happening and high street retailers are dead with big labels like GAP shutting all their shops!

The snowball effect of this puts all related staff like shop workers, chefs and waiters whose jobs depend on office workers being in their offices in jeopardy, and as a result they too will tighten their belts to reduce spending. It is expected that the average spend of an office worker will reduce by over £10 per month with larger reductions coming from those earning over £40k. The knock-on effect could see a loss of £12bn equivalent to 250,000 jobs per year.

What we’re missing most is the human touch. A virtual coffee is a nice idea, but you don’t get the same interaction between people over a Teams/Skype/Zoom meeting as you do face to face. At som3 we love a boozy lunch with customers and networking to develop new and exciting opportunities, where at present we can’t even get our Bank Manager to come and see us as it’s against covid policy. Continued working from home could take another £3.2bn off UK GDP due to the reduction in economic clustering activity, that’s people getting together in normal speak.

There seems to be a major reluctance from some to return to offices claiming they have proved they can work effectively from home, yet most business owners we speak to report at least a 20% loss in productivity when staff work from home. Some of the excuses to stay at home are classic though including the guy who claimed he’d put on so much weight over lockdown that he’s now classed as obese, so he refused to return to the office as he now considers himself in a high risk category. Or the lady who claimed she couldn’t come to the office as her boyfriend has hay fever (an asthmatic symptom). These people should be careful what they wish for as some companies are now considering offshoring roles to save cost if staff are telling them they don’t need to be in city offices, so they’ll get to stay at home permanently!

It is well documented that there are advantages of working from home like increased productivity, but this tends to be only in the short term as it can lead to isolation and stress as the lines between home and work merge. Plus, distractions like the fridge, pets and family can serve as detractors from peak performance. We believe a blend of home and office work is the way forward, reducing commuting costs and time, providing the opportunity to get your head down, but also getting into work, seeing and learning from your colleagues and working together to move business forward.

However, as I’m writing Boris has just announced his plans to lock us down until December, so have a good November everyone and I guess we’ll see you back on Zoom in November!!

Neil Bryers – Operations Director