- Though work from home facility existed before, the lockdown due to pandemic accentuated its utility from a safety point of view
- As people spend more and more time working from home, the feeling of convenience sets in
- The impact of work from the facility had resulted in a lot fewer people being put under the furloughing scheme.
The outbreak of the coronavirus has brought about some dramatic changes to the way we live and work. While going out has become riskier than ever, people are now devising ways and means to continue their level of engagement with their workplaces while still being safe. The work from home facility, which till the emergence of the pandemic was a novelty and would have been limited to executives whose work was considered extremely vital for an organisation. After March of 2020, however, it has become the lifeline of many organisations, who are extending this facility to as many staff as they can to keep their organisation on going concern. While there are many advantages that the work from facility extends to organisations, safety and convenience are the two most important considerations that have emerged during the past three months that has seen such an extensive growth of this hi-tech business tool.
Teleconferencing facilities and remotely located workstations facilities have been widely available since high-speed internet became a commonplace. It has cut down, travel time, travel costs for organisations and have helped them become competitive. The whole outsourcing industry is based on high-speed internet and remotely located workstation facilities, which has over the past two decades assumed the size of hundreds of billions globally. Work from home is a new avatar of this technology and has already started to revolutionise our work practices in a big way.
The office of the national statistics has reported that in the United Kingdom the proportion of people working remotely from their homes has increased significantly over the past three months. For the week ending on 14th June 2020, the number of people who were working from home even for at least some time during the week was up to 49 per cent compared to the previous week when it was 41 per cent. This observation made by the ONS even after a month of the first phase opening of the economy could indicate to the fact that work from the home facility could be a motivating factor behind many of the employees postponing not opening their offices and keeping their staff at home.
The ONS however, also reported that a greater number of people have been reporting back to work in certain industries after the opening of the lockdown. The construction industry which had placed the largest number of people under the benefit of the furloughing scheme saw nearly 14 per cent join back at work, but mostly at worksites rather than offices. Similarly, the manufacturing industries also saw between 8 and 10 per cent of their workforce returning to work despite the strict social distancing measures implemented in factories.
When people keep working from home for a longer period of time, a feeling of convenience also sets in. This also becomes a big demotivating factor when suddenly they are asked to come back to the office, which immediately takes them out of their comfort zones. The ONS via a separate study found out that over the past three months, the anxiety levels among the people regarding the pandemic has also come down significantly. This could be very well because of the feeling of safety they may be having staying at their home and trying to force them out could result in making them more anxious. Several employers are thus much better placed considering letting their employees work from home than risk their productivity levels due to health and anxiety issues.
The benefits of work from home facility, while turned favourable to certain industries but are not of much benefits to others. The financial sector, publishing sector or broadcasting sector have been able to keep most of their operations continuing during the lockdown thanks to the work from home facility. There are many like the manufacturing sector, the hospitality sector and the airline sector who have been deeply battered by the lockdown with several of their employees already laid off and others being put under the furloughing scheme. It is thus highly misplaced to say that Work from home would be the instrument to bring most of the people back to active work. The ONS statistic on the increasing number of people working from home during the first two weeks of June is a testament that WFH has no relation on the number of people being put under the furloughing scheme or people coming out of it.
Work from home facility, however, has benefited the British economy in many ways. It has not only helped many businesses and jobs survive out of the lockdown but has also ensured that crucial sectors like banking and telecommunication be kept functioning. These sectors are important from the point of view of supporting the other industries during the lockdown and also in helping the country in its bounce-back process when the dust settles on the pandemic.
While the work from home facility has got increased acceptance and popularity among employers as well as employees, its magnitude is not so that it can help the entire economy come out of the current slowdown. The current stimulus schemes that are being implemented by the government are going to be the key to the gradual recovery of the economy. The increasing popularity of the work from the home facility can be viewed in the light of how work and workplaces are going to be transformed in future. This facility will not only make working more efficient from a cost point of view for business organisations but will also improve upon the quality of life of people and help them better their work and life balance. In the meantime, it is helping the country keep many people out of the streets, which is making things relatively safe for everyone.