Is working from home the new normal?
All across the UK, Covid-19 restrictions are gradually easing, and many people who have been on furlough are now able to return to work. But what does that actually mean in reality?
According to a recent survey by the BBC, many of the UK’s biggest employers do not plan to bring staff back to the office full-time. The research involved 50 big employers, covering 1.1 million workers in sectors ranging from financial services to retail.
43 of these companies are planning to offer hybrid working to employees from now on, and 4 others are also considering it. The hybrid working will be a combination of home and office working, with the majority of staff being expected to work from home for 2-3 days a week.
Whilst most of these companies are not currently closing offices, some intend to do so when leases run out. If more staff are working from home for at least some of the time, then less office space will be needed.
So it seems that working from home is going to be a significant part of the new normal. But how does this work for you?
Five benefits of working from home
Many people welcome the opportunity to spend more time working from home. Some of the benefits that people find when working from home are:
A better work/life balance
If your work is home-based, you can hopefully also have more flexibility over the hours during which you work. As long as you are available when needed, and work deadlines are met, there is more scope to build in other activities such as the school run or perhaps a weekly exercise class. If you are prepared to work at non-conventional times, you can be more present for other significant aspects of your life when needed.
Repurposed commuting time
Releasing the time you spend commuting can give you a few hours a week more time than you had before. Rather than just absorb this time into your daily routine, make the most of it by using the time for positive changes in your life such as exercise, rest or a hobby.
Save money on work expenses
If you don’t have to commute this means that you can also save the money that you were spending on travelling and parking etc. But the savings don’t stop there. During a typical working day you can end up spending quite a bit of money on all kinds of things without realising it. For example coffee, lunch, after work drinks, newspapers and magazines, gifts, raffles/sponsorships. It’s a good idea to build some of these perks and treats into working from home, but you are still likely to spend less money overall.
More job opportunities
As many employers increase their home working opportunities, it can open up these opportunities to a broader range of people. If you rarely need to be in the office, you can consider applying for jobs that are further away from home. More remote working can also level the playing field in terms of diversity, opening up opportunities to everyone on an equal footing.
More environmentally friendly
With less travelling and less daily consumption of purchased goods, remote working can also contribute to a healthy reduction in your carbon footprint. So as well as being a positive factor for your own wellbeing, working from home can help you to play your own small part in preserving the planet.
Five drawbacks of working from home
But is working from home all good news? There are also a few drawbacks to be aware of.
Let’s take a look at five of these:
Blurring of work and home boundaries
Whilst many people love the scope that home working has to improve their work/life balance, others find it much more of a struggle. It can be difficult to work from home if there are constant distractions from other family members. Some people also find that they end up working far longer hours from home either because they can’t switch off or they feel that they need to prove how hard they are working.
Not enough office space
If you have a dedicated home office this is the ideal environment for working at home. But many people have to use part of a kitchen, bedroom or hallway. If you are going to be working at home permanently, it is definitely worth seeing if there is anywhere in your home that you can convert into proper office space. This may mean sacrificing all or part of a spare room, dining room or outbuilding.
But even if your options are not straightforward, it may be something that you need to do to make working at home work for you. If you need any additional funding to set up your home office, bear in mind that Loans 2 Go offers unsecured personal loans and may be able to help.
Lack of social interaction
One issue about working from home is that you have less interaction with colleagues. Some people love this. They are able to get on with work without interruptions, and feel more energised because of it. Others can feel restless and bored, longing for a chat to break up the working day. Still others really miss having colleagues to bounce ideas around with, and feel that they are not as productive as a result.
Missing out on training and development
When working from home, it can be all too easy to become very focused on the day to day tasks of the job, and forget to look at the bigger picture. Ongoing training and development are an essential part of any job, and just because you are working from home you should not miss out.
As remote and hybrid working becomes more widespread, employers should be offering more opportunities in a variety of ways. But if this is not happening for you just yet, take the initiative to think of skills that you would like to learn, and see if there are any online resources that can help you to do this.
Costs of working from home
We looked earlier at the savings that can be made by not going into work. But there are also some extra costs that you may face when working from home. As well as the costs of setting up your home office, there could be additional costs for equipment and also stationery. Then you may notice increased domestic bills – for example broadband, heating and food costs – due to you being at home more than you were before.
The good news is that you may be able to get some financial help with these costs. Start by asking your employer. Many employers will agree either to provide necessary items or financial help of some kind. You can also claim tax relief either at a flat rate of £6 per week, or you can keep detailed records to work out a specific amount if it is likely to be more than this. For further details, see the Gov UK website.
So if you are likely to be working from home for the foreseeable future, we hope that this article helps you to be mindful of both the benefits and potential drawbacks, so that you can find the best way forward into your new normal.
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