Published: 10 June 2020
Homeworking reached an all-time high during 2020's COVID-19 lockdown, with 44% of adults working from home at its peak.
Compare this to 2019’s average homeworking figure of 12%, and it’s easy to see how the “temporary” shift may not end up being so temporary after all.
Many businesses didn’t previously think remote working was realistic for them, with fears and concerns over productivity, logistics and efficiency. However, with lockdown forcing the hands of many businesses, many of these concerns have proven to be unfounded. And with this comes significant opportunity for both businesses and employees.
Office move considerations
Returning to the office?
While the 44% homeworking peak represents an exceptional situation, the figure seems unlikely to drop back down to 2019’s 12% in the longer term, thanks to a shift in attitudes towards remote working. It therefore seems more likely that the homeworking figure will settle at a figure closer to 20-30%.
Prominent companies such as Twitter and Google have already announced their intention to offer homeworking as a permanent option to staff, and a number of businesses have made the decision to implement more flexible working options.
Although not necessarily the case during lockdown conditions, it has long been acknowledged that homeworking generally has a positive impact on productivity, with studies from 2015 finding that homeworkers achieved an average efficiency increase of 13%.
As well as the well-documented benefits which the spike in lockdown homeworking had on commuting, work/life balance, and the environment, businesses are also identifying additional longer-term potential in this way of working.
Could you save costs with an office move?
One key area for potential future changes is office size. With more flexible working anticipated, the question of downsizing office spaces to save money has been raised in many companies who will see fewer office-based staff, or staff working part of the week from home.
However, changing health and safety requirements mean this probably isn’t going to happen soon. Social distancing in the workplace means businesses continue to require a significant amount of space to accommodate a smaller number of people. Even using a hot-desking setup brings additional cleaning and logistical requirements, so may be a false economy.
The potential for office downsizing is therefore likely to only be a longer-term option for many companies.
Closing your office permanently?
The logistical challenges outlined above, combined with the success of homeworking, have seen some companies consider going entirely home-based, with plans to close their offices permanently and hire meeting rooms or local co-working spaces on an ad-hoc basis if needed.
This brings the even more critical need to implement robust, effective IT infrastructure to ensure this is a viable option long term.
The right IT infrastructure for permanent homeworking
Another key consideration stemming from the potential long-term increase in homeworking is around IT infrastructure.
While many businesses successfully shifted to remote working during the lockdown period, this often involved finding quick, short-term solutions and workarounds which may not be sustainable, efficient or safe longer term.
Solutions around backup, connectivity, security and hardware will need to be considered and implemented if remote working is to be successful.
There may be options to reduce costs whilst increasing flexibility.
If your business is shifting towards greater long-term homeworking, we can help prepare your IT and telecoms to support this.
Infrastructure: Our Reliance 2 solution provides Managed IaaS, improving operational efficiency and removing the headache of managing constant updates.
Backup & recovery: We recommend Redstor’s all-in-one backup, archiving and recovery solution which is ideal for both on-premises and remote workers.
Phone systems: We can support homeworking via Mitel systems and also phone integration with Microsoft Teams.
Even if you’re planning a full or partial return to the office, it’s important to use your experience of lockdown to build working from home into your business continuity plan.
The COVID-19 lockdown was a wake-up call to many businesses, and so preparedness for future spikes or other scenarios in which short-notice homeworking is necessary should be at the forefront of your mind.
Whether homeworking is required due to lockdowns at short-notice nationally, locally, or at office or departmental level, preparing your IT infrastructure for this eventuality is time well-spent.
Implementing a well-considered IT infrastructure plan for homeworking can help avoid any last-minute panics in future and prepare your business for more efficient remote working.
Only time will tell what the future holds for homeworking, with the long-term impacts on businesses remaining to be seen. But one thing’s for sure – the rate of adoption for homeworking, and shift in attitudes around it, has just shot forward by several years.