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The changing perspectives on working from home

Working from home has become standard practice in the UK.

During the early days of lockdown, many wondered how to work from home efficiently. With questions of what these changes would mean for productivity, team management and the economy at large, it’s easy to see the reservations business leaders and employees felt. 

However, fast forward a few years and we’re now all masters of working from home. 

A study carried out by Vox EU found that out of 5,000 UK respondents, an overwhelming 79% would like to work from home. And it’s not just employees that benefit but employers too, with one study (cited by the London School of Economics and Political Science) claiming;

“…access to remote work increases employee well-being, productivity, innovation, and inclusion. It increases innovation by 63%, work engagement by 75%, organisational commitment by 68%, and 93% of employees are more likely to report feeling included.”

But this topic goes beyond efficiency and has far-reaching effects on the everyday workplace. In this blog and the rest of the series, we will investigate the working-from-home phenomenon and what it means for employers, candidates and the UK job market.

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How perceptions of working from home jobs have changed | How does working from home help improve productivity? | What are the downsides to working from home jobs?

How opinions about working from home jobs have changed 

To lay the foundation for this series, we’re going to start with how perceptions have changed. Organisations and employers have found several ways to incorporate work from home into their daily operations, especially office-based jobs that only require an internet connection to function. Whether completely remote, or using a hybrid system of alternating days in the office, companies have found a way to balance office time whilst still ensuring teams work efficiently and effectively. 

But how has this changed from the start of lockdown? For one thing, a study by the Universities of Kent and Birmingham showed;

  • 90% of respondents who worked from home felt that managers were supportive of this arrangement. 
  • 66% of non-parents and 52% of all parents said it is (very) likely that they will work from home (after lockdown)

This study also found that working from home negatively impacted employees by removing the line between work and home, effectively leading to higher stress levels and difficulty with ‘unplugging’ after work. As a result, many people favour a flexible hybrid system where the week is split between home and the office. This allows for effective communication with in-office meetings – but also allows employees to build work around their lives and enjoy a better work-life balance.

This claim is backed up by Vox EU; who asked in their survey; “Since the COVID pandemic began, how have perceptions about working from home changed among people you know?” The results were overwhelmingly positive:

  • 40% of respondents substantially improved perceptions about WFH
  • 17% of respondents reported hugely improved perceptions about WFH
  •  By comparison, only 16% had no change in their perceptions of remote working conditions. 

This shows the stigma of working from home jobs is well and truly a thing of the past. Instead, finding the right candidate and offering packages which fit their needs is now more important than ever. 

How does working from home help improve productivity?

So the perceptions have changed, but why? How has working from home changed employees? And what aspect of working from home benefits employers? 

There’s a litany of proven benefits to working from home for both companies and teams; from giving parents more time with their children, to better productivity, reduced travel emissions, and less time lost to the daily commute. Some of the key takeaways that benefit both parties discovered by Global Workplace Analytics include:

  • Improve employee satisfaction – A poll of 1,500 technology professionals revealed that 37% would take a pay cut of 10% if they could work from home.
  • Better productivity – Best Buy, British Telecom, Dow Chemical, and other large corporations have found that teleworkers are 35-40% more productive with businesses in the US reporting an average of $600 billion previously lost to workplace distractions.
  • Reduce costs – By moving employees out of offices, employers save millions on office space whilst also reducing fuel and travel costs for employees.
  • More flexibility – By not requiring a permanent desk space, employers can scale up and scale down operations more easily. With good processes and team management, you can adapt to new contracts, opportunities, or changes in the market quicker with no set office.
  • More appealing to prospective candidates – Working from home is a great way to get the best recruits. GWA found that 95% of employers say telework has a great impact on team retention with 66% of employees saying they would work from home to ease the commute.

What are the downsides to working from home jobs?

However, with all these positives it’s wise to still consider the downsides to work from home jobs too. One of the biggest headaches is standardising processes and setting up schedules for when people are in the office – protocols for meetings and so on. This can lead to an invisible presence where it can be tricky to keep tabs on employees and projects, and can lead to mistakes. Good project management skills and effective communication are the solutions to these issues and can alleviate concerns about working from home.

Marginalisation of women in the workplace

Along with this is a fear that women may become marginalised in the workplace, as this statement from the University of Birmingham’s study succinctly captured in their study Working from home during the COVID-19 lockdown: Changing preferences and the future of work’; 

“Many women have been carrying out the double/triple shifts of work/care/home-schooling throughout the lockdown. Many are suffering from feelings of conflict and stress, especially after four months of school closures.

Without proper support, which includes ensuring continuous involvement of fathers and well-resourced re-opening of schools and other childcare facilities, we may see a rise in women exiting the labour market and feeling unable to compete with their peers. 

In sum, without purposeful and targeted approaches to support women/mothers, we may see an increase in the gender gap in labour market outcomes/pay.”

This question over gender discrepancies, as well as a fear that working from home may inhibit promotion and make it difficult for employers to see which staff are valuable and more worthy of promotion, reinforces the need for clear communication and effective project management, as well as further research into gender roles in the UK.

Distinct: trusted recruiters across the US and UK

As businesses adjust to more modern ways of working, it will be interesting to see how these trends and perceptions change. 

By and large, working from home benefits personal and professional development – but comes with the caveat of needing good management (both on a personal and organisational level) to ensure employees work to their full potential.

As leaders in the field, we offer a personal touch during the recruitment process; taking into account every aspect of the role and the skills and ambitions of the person suited to it. We take the time to understand both your organisation and our candidates, in order to ensure the right fit the first time around. Contact us today.


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