44% of UK workers currently working from home want to be able to continue to do so after lockdown restrictions are lifted.
The current lockdown in the UK has seen many people having to adapt to working from home as offices around the country closed due to the coronavirus. While some have struggled to deal with the isolation and change in their daily routines, it seems that working from home has agreed with much of the country’s workforce.
More than 13 million people (around 44% of workers) are planning to ask their bosses for permanent flexible working arrangements once the UK’s lockdown restrictions have been totally lifted.
New research from Direct Line Life Insurance has revealed that remote working is offering a degree of flexibility that has helped many people. The main drivers for so many people wanting this flexibility in the long run are saving time and money, and being able to prioritise family and health.
The most popular option for survey recipients is working from home two days a week, with 12% of those wanting permanent flexible arrangements saying this would be their choice. A further 10% said they would be happy to be able to work from home three days a week. However, 8% are planning on asking their employers if they can work from home permanently.
Why do people want to work from home?
One of the biggest reasons for the plan to request flexible working is that employees feel they have proven they can be effective while working from home. Over a quarter (28%) of respondents said they hope their request will be accepted as they have shown they are able to work remotely when required to do so.
Just under a third (31%) say they are hoping their requests will be accepted due to the cost of travel and being at work, while a further 23% want to work from home due to the time that it takes them to get to the office.
Family commitments are also a big driver for the change in working styles, with 22% saying it will give them more time with their children, 18% wanting additional time with their partners and 15% saying it would help them see their broader family more often. These are likely to be incredibly important factors once lockdown restrictions are lifted and people are able to visit family members again who they may not have seen for months.
Many people want flexibility around working arrangements in a bid to improve their health and wellbeing. Some 17% want to work from home due to concerns around pollution levels with a further 15% saying it would give them more time to exercise and improve their health.
Around 1.9 million people (15%) have simply realised since lockdown began that they spend too much time at work, which doesn’t allow for a healthy work-life balance.
What are companies saying about flexible working?
Research from Direct Line also found that HR directors are predicting that there will be a 45% increase in the number of employees requesting some form of flexibility once lockdown restrictions are lifted compared to before the pandemic. This could mean that 70% of the UK’s workforce that is able to do so could work flexibly once coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
While many businesses were not prepared for remote working prior to the pandemic, it seems as though the recent requirement for flexibility has companies thinking differently. Currently, 43% of HR directors are planning to offer employees the option to work from home five days a week. A further 20% will give the option to work remotely three of four days a week.
Chloe Couper, Business Manager at Direct Line Life Insurance, said: “While the lockdown has been an incredibly difficult and disruptive time for many, it seems to have also had an impact on the mindset of millions of UK workers about the aspects of their life they want to change once it is over.
“Many people wouldn’t have considered their employer would accept a flexible working request, despite it being legal to make one, before the pandemic but now companies and employees have become used to home working as the ‘new norm’, it seems many hope to make part of the change permanent.
“Going through such a serious event as a pandemic will understandably make some people want to reassess their lives and priorities going forward. Protecting health and family are vital and it is great to see so many wish to spend more time doing both.”
What considerations need to be made?
While lockdown has meant that many companies and employees have had to scramble to get everything together in order to make working from home possible, permanent flexible working would mean considering a number of things.
Companies would need to ensure that there is the right support in place, that teams can still work effectively from different locations and that each employee has all the equipment they require in order to their job. This means ensuring that:
- There are suitable channels for team communication.
- Company processes (such as holiday requests) are clear.
- Employees have the right computer equipment and suitable internet connections.
- Employees have suitable working environments and office equipment (such as desks and chairs) to enable comfortable working that adheres to health and safety standards.
- The right software is being used to allow people to securely access company systems.
- Team-building and team support are still taking place.
Although many requirements and systems will have been ironed out for remote workers due to the necessity that lockdown brought, it is likely to take companies and employees some time to find out exactly what does and doesn’t work when it comes to remote working.