Home working after COVID-19 – is the genie finally out of the lamp?

Cast your mind back to those halcyon days in February, when everyone was able to travel to offices around the country - would you have imagined the scale of the changes which have taken place? We explore whether whether remote working will become a permanent change in our working lives.

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Cast your mind back to those halcyon days in February, when everyone was able to travel to offices around the country, bars, restaurants and shops were still open, and you could stand within two metres of another person. Back then, would you have imagined the scale of the changes which have taken place?

While there have been many profound changes as a result of this pandemic, perhaps the one that will have the longest lasting effect is businesses embracing remote working. Until this pandemic, remote working was typically limited to senior, long-tenured employees who could be ‘trusted’ to stay productive.

This is all assuming a business had the technology and security to allow employees to work remotely in the first place. Many firms still required employees to come into a place of work to be able to access their networks. In 2019, only 30% of the UK workforce experienced working from home.

Suddenly, employers have had to trust that employees working from home will remain productive. Managers have far less oversight and control of their employees’ schedules.

The ‘new normal’?

Many people’s home lives now encompass work, with several also trying to home-school children at the same time. This has impacted employees differently, with some finding themselves more productive, while others have struggled without the social interaction of the workplace.

But this won’t last forever, while we don’t know when and how, children will eventually return to schools and workers will be expected to return to the workplace.

Some will find it difficult to ditch the tracksuit, while others - including me – can’t wait to have something to dress up for. Those who previously wanted to work from home may now have found that it is not to their liking. I believe part of the attraction of these sorts of ‘benefits’ are that they were work’s ‘forbidden fruit’. When restrictions are lifted, it is likely businesses will need to find more of a middle ground, but the UK workforce certainly isn’t set to become wholly home-based.

Businesses cannot overlook the impact this situation is having on employee wellbeing and mental health. While some firms may not address this challenge, those that do will have the upper hand, and policies that will pave the way for the future.

What does the future hold?

Given the current uncertainty, over the next weeks and months Reed Talent Solutions will be following the developments closely and setting out what the future employment landscape could look like. Are some of the changes dictated by the coronavirus crisis permanent? Will things ever go back to ‘the way they were’?

We’ll be examining a range of topics, including:

  • Flexible working - questioning whether we have now reached an opportunity for perfect balance in work and home life?
  • The skills and competencies which have become invaluable during lockdown, and how organisations can nurture them
  • The battle for talent in a post-pandemic environment, as increasing numbers of talented workers become available

By starting to understand the impact of these issues now, it will mean you are better prepared for the challenges which will come with the future workforce landscape.

I’m excited about how we will plot the current landscape, uncover new trends and make informed predictions on the reshaping of the world of work in this insight series over the next weeks. I look forward to welcoming you back here.

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Matt Phipps
Principal Consultant

Matt is one of the leaders of the HR consultancy practice at Consultancy+. He has a keen interest in driving positive change in organisations’, delivering projects that add genuine value to people strategies.

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Tim Whitaker is a consultant working on age and employment issues and a Trustee of Wise Age - a specialist employment charity for the over 50s working with employers, policy makers and older workers.

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Reed Talent Solutions has been named as a finalist in four categories of the prestigious TIARA Talent Solutions Awards 2022.

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