2021 - Why lockdown proved flexible working should be the future

Written by Geoff Aldis – twitter @GeoffAldis

Now that we’re in our second national lockdown, many employees are heading back to their makeshift offices and temporary desks at home – if they even ever left. But is it time for them to set up permanent spaces at home? 

For many, lockdown was the first real opportunity to work flexibly from home. A lot of employees are expected to travel into offices everyday, with the average daily commute in the UK now 59 minutes. That’s a whopping 221 hours a year going to and from work.

While it might have been a slight adjustment getting used to working from home, it’s also given people a lot of time back. And that’s far from the only benefit of giving employees a bit of flexibility. Here’s why lockdown proved flexible working should be the future:

  • It proved the work still got completed – during a global pandemic

Some businesses and managers seem to get comfort from seeing workers in front of their computers – in front of them. They might feel like it’s confirmation they’re getting their work done. But during the lockdown, when employees who could had to work from home, work still got completed – despite having no one watching over anyone’s shoulder.

And there are studies which back this up, with 40.9% of homeworkers reporting that they were able to get as much work done in June 2020 as they were six months earlier. Over a quarter (28.9%) said that they got more done, while 30.2% said that their productivity had fallen. The potential effects of the global pandemic shouldn’t be ignored. Working from home would’ve had a shaky start for some. 

  • It has the potential to save businesses and employees money

Over the longer term, if businesses allow employees to work flexibly, they could cut down on the amount of office space they need. It’s one of the largest costs for many companies. Even if they offer the option for people to work from home one or two days a week, a schedule could organise the number of people who are in.

For employees, there’s the chance to save on travel costs, as well as hot drinks and lunches. 

  • It’s what employees want

More than 13 million Brits are set to request permanent flexible working this year, with many companies already preparing to receive significant volumes of flexible working requests once the pandemic has eased. So why is this? The research from Direct Line suggests that the top reasons are:

  • I can save money on travelling and other associated costs like coffee and lunch (31% choose this reason)
  • Coronavirus has proven that I can work from home effectively (28%)
  • It has made me realise I spend too much time commuting (23%)
  • I want to spend more time with my children (22%)
  • I am more productive when working from home (19%)
  • I want to spend more time with my spouse / partner (18%)
  • It’s better for my health in terms of pollution levels (17%)
  • I want to spend more time with my parents / grandparents / broader family (15%)
  • I want to spend more time exercising and becoming healthier (15%)
  • It has made me realise I spend too much time at work (15%)

Of course, we’ve already covered some of these reasons. But it’s clear to see that people have various valid reasons for wanting to work flexibly. Homeworking was on a gradual, but slow, upward trajectory before the lockdown. Now we’ve all felt the benefits of flexible working, there are plenty of reasons for that to speed up.

Don’t get left behind

As flexible working becomes more commonplace, it’ll be the businesses who don’t offer it which stand out. Employees will choose to work for places which give them the opportunity to spend more of their own time how they choose.

The pandemic has taught us many things, including how it is possible to work from home. And if it’s set to be the future, the more we can prepare, the better. Having the right set-up at home for employees can make all the difference to productivity, and employers will need to reflect their working practices in updated policies. Get started today.