Remote working can be a turn off (Image: Getty)
Get our daily coronavirus email newsletter with all the news you need to know direct to your inbox
Invalid EmailSomething went wrong, please try again later.Sign upWhen you subscribe we will use the information you provide to send you these newsletters. Your information will be used in accordance with ourPrivacy Notice.Thank you for subscribingWe have more newslettersShow meSee ourprivacy notice
There was a time when, for most employers, working from home was seen as a licence to skive.
And although staff were legally entitled to ask for flexible working hours, they had to make “the business case’’ and fill in endless paperwork. Even then, bosses could refuse their request.
Then the pandemic came along and changed all that.
With the obvious exception of key workers, WFH became the necessary new normal.
And for many, it’s been a revelation. Not only have they proved they are able to get the work done, employees have saved time and money.
Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg says he’s happier and more productive away from the office. Reckon I would be too, working from a private estate in Hawaii, like he can.
But despite the many benefits, there are now genuine fears that the WFH revolution comes with some troubling hidden consequences.
A report out this week by the Tony Blair Institute has warned Britain could lose as many as six million jobs under this new way of working.
It says the “mass experiment” has loosened the connection between job roles and specific workplaces. As a result, many white-collar jobs could be moved overseas. That would be a catastrophe. If these jobs go, will they be replaced? It’s particularly worrying for young people trying to get a foot on the career path. When they do start off, it’s vital to be surrounded by people who can help them grow, people who they can quietly ask for help while making a round of tea without feeling embarrassed. It’s one of the best ways to learn.
I’ve worked remotely for years because it suits my lifestyle as a working mum. On the flip side, it has meant hours glued to the computer screen, no breaks unless I have a meeting, and not being able to really, truly, switch off.
In an office, you actually have to leave your desk to go home. I found WFH, while it may appear more convenient on the surface, means you end up working longer hours and taking fewer breaks.
A report from the Office for National Statistics in April showed that people who work remotely are doing more unpaid hours – around six extra a week – than those who go into the office.
None of this is good for our mental or physical well being, something we need to look after more than ever.
We need a hybrid model, as suggested by the likes of Google, with staff splitting their time between remote working and the office. Getting the best of both worlds will pay off for everyone and businesses need to wake up to that – fast.