By Sophie Robertson BA, Assoc CIPD – Head of HR & Operational Support
Has COVID-19 accelerated modern homeworking life, and what benefit can this have on well-being?
It is no secret that the recent pandemic has forced thousands of employees to work from home. Some have no doubt found it difficult to acclimatise to working from within their home space, while others will be reaping the benefits of working whilst being surrounded by their home comforts. Virtual meetings, pets as foot-warmers and working in pyjamas are the new 2020 norm, but how many companies will continue homeworking following the pandemic, and how many employees prefer it? HCUK Group has been a homeworking company since its establishment in 2010, meaning that myself and fellow colleagues are very used to working in this way. Despite this, we have also experienced an increase in the inevitable rise in virtual meetings. The phrases “you’re on mute”, “can you see the document on my screen?” and “apologies about the Paw Patrol episode in the background” have definitely increased in the last few months. It has been interesting to observe how other companies and employees have responded to the migration from working in an office to homeworking too. There are many benefits to working from home for both companies and individuals. Having staff based throughout the country has assisted HCUK Group’s ability to provide consultancy services across the whole of the UK, along with promoting a flexible and modern approach to working. It will be intriguing to see how many companies remain working from home when the restrictions ease.
Happiness, health, and homeworking
The year of 2020 has been an unprecedented and difficult time for many, and has no doubt had an
impact on the well-being of numerous individuals. When looking specifically on the effects of homeworking, it is clear that there are both advantages and disadvantages depending on the unique circumstances and preferences of each individual.
Homeworking during Lockdown 1:
There is no denying that the first lockdown was particularly strenuous, even for companies like ours who had the prior advantage of working from home. The uncertainty, coupled with nursery closures and conducting site visits in line with national guidance, caused pressure throughout this time. Simple tasks such as shopping for food became a nightmare, particularly when coupled with the realisation your child has just destroyed your last sacred toilet roll. Despite this, my experience was that working from home allowed us to pull through together as a team, utilising increased virtual meetings, supportive group WhatsApp chats filled with pictures of foot-warming pets and a mutual understanding and appreciation for each other’s individual situations.
Homeworking in general:
Homeworking can be difficult when you have been used to working in an office, though there are undoubtably many positives. Since joining HCUK Group, I have found homeworking to be extremely positive for my wellbeing and overall happiness. Being able to wake up on a winter’s morning and jump straight on to the laptop rather than a dreaded cold commute to work is a win in itself. Being able to restore a work/life balance is a huge benefit to homeworking and flexible working provides you with the ultimate gift of being able to spend more time with your loved ones, whilst sustaining a stable career. The ability to focus on your work without having to listen to the office chatterbox’s adventures at the weekend. It allows you to create a homeworking environment suited to your needs and preferences, such as your favourite furry feline companion or air-purifying plant. Homeworking is great to promote a healthy work/life balance providing you have the correct support and assistance from your organisation. It can, however, be challenging and potentially isolating. Acknowledging this is important. We have learnt this over time and are still learning and honing our communication skills.
How does HCUK Group achieve an efficient homeworking establishment?
Trust – HCUK Group has always given staff the confidence that they are trusted to work from home. This aspect can be daunting for employers who are not used to their staff working from home, but having the confidence to trust your staff to work productively, gives them the encouragement to do so to the best of their ability. Numerous studies have shown that homeworking has increased productivity, with a recent study by Forbes* indicating that productivity has risen by 47%1. Staff have the freedom to work solely with the knowledge that the company acknowledges their dynamic efforts in undertaking tasks without the need of surveillance of any kind.
Support – HCUK Group has always supported staff financially and emotionally wherever possible to ensure that they have a positive experience of homeworking. The company has always reimbursed its staff members’ commutes to and from meetings, site visits and social events. It has actively encouraged and endorsed employees to take on training and development where possible, along with providing sufficient tools and equipment for staff to work from home effectively. As Head of HR, I actively support the health and wellbeing of staff and the company invested in sending me on a Mental Health First Aid Course, following which I encourage staff feedback forums.
Promoting flexible working – HCUK Group understand that flexible working is extremely important and has supported many staff members who need to adopt specific working patterns due to other personal commitments.
We all watch this space to see how many organisations will remain homeworking following the pandemic and how others have found the experience of working from home throughout this time. Feel free to comment below and let us know your experiences so far.