Home-working could be here to stay for many, say business leaders

Working from home Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The virus crisis will have a lasting impact on the world of work, with fewer people based in offices, a new study suggests.

A survey of almost 1,000 members of the Institute of Directors (IoD) found that three out of four would be keeping increased home-working after coronavirus.

More than half of those polled said their organisation intended to reduce their long-term use of workplaces.

Among those who had been using their workplace less before the change in Government recommendation last month, more than four in 10 said that working from home was proving more effective than their previous set-up.

Business leaders surveyed had been making a number of other adjustments during the pandemic that they intended to keep in place such as greater use of flexible working or moving services online.

The IoD warned that the prospect of increased home-working could raise legal questions around employers’ responsibilities for staff outside the office.

Greater flexibility could benefit both business and worker alike. However, it's crucial that the legal and economic implications of this change are grappled with from the start

Roger Barker, IoD

Roger Barker, director of policy at the IoD, said: “Remote working has been one of the most tangible impacts of coronavirus on the economy. For many, it could be here to stay.

“Working from home doesn’t work for everyone, and directors must be alive to the downsides. Managing teams remotely can prove far from straightforward, and directors must make sure they are going out of their way to support employees’ mental wellbeing.

“The UK has long needed to up its game when it comes to management skills, and the pandemic has only made this more pressing. It’s crucial that the Government targets this key area, ensuring businesses and their people can make use of accessible courses that reflect their skills needs.

“Any remote working set-up is only as good as the technology that enables it. Alongside continued investment in digital infrastructure, the Government should give small firms the headroom to invest in the latest equipment and software. The restrictions have spurred significant innovation, but low revenues and high costs could put a lid on this.

“The benefits of the office haven’t gone away. For many companies, bringing teams together in person proves more productive and enjoyable.

“It seems more and more companies will take a blended approach to where they work. Any transition can cause challenges, and the Government should look to ease this. In the long run, greater flexibility could benefit both business and worker alike. However, it’s crucial that the legal and economic implications of this change are grappled with from the start.”