Workers around the world are adapting to the new norm – working from home. But what are the effects on businesses and their employees?
For the last two or so weeks, like many others in the UK and across the world, my commute has been drastically shortened. (From about 15 miles to 5 metres to be exact). Of course, I’ve been slowly adapting to the seemingly new norm of working from home. You can’t go a minute on any social media platform or news outlet without seeing something about ‘WFH’; how best to go about doing it, its effect on our society, our economy and our broader lives.
Industry & Induvidual Impact
It’s obvious that this shift to working from home has changed the way we work. As we work from the confines of our own homes, the way we communicate with our colleagues is changing. Microsoft recently revealed usage of its Teams platform has increased by an average of 755% in territories with some form of restrictions on movement in place. The telecoms industry has seen massive upticks in usage across the board, with demand sometimes outstripping supply, leading to widespread outages. Businesses are having to deal with daily industry shocks and unprecedented unpredictability and instability.
But not only does working from home have a clear impact on our organisations as a whole – the changes, impacts and possible opportunities for individual employees are also apparent. Hop on LinkedIn, and you’ll see a multitude of posts asking or giving advice on working from home; how to keep productivity levels up, how to maintain a balanced lifestyle with plenty of rest, and how to seize the opportunity working from home represents. After all, this could all be characterised as one peculiar, elephantine social experiment, seeing what people can achieve when forced to maintain some form of continuity in their work amongst global crisis.
Many organisations and their employees are probably understandably concerned about their ability to maintain a good level of productivity with everybody working remotely; after all, a person’s propensity to be distracted is likely higher in a home environment. However, a number of recent studies have shown a positive correlation between working from home and higher levels of productivity. A recent study in America of 16,000 workers over a 2 year period showed employees completed more tasks, took shorter breaks and were productive for more hours of the day, completing around 20 more minutes a day of meaningful work.
Opportunities Amongst the Chaos
Whilst this new way of working obviously represents a massive challenge, it also represents an opportunity; Last year, Britons spent an average of 58.4 minutes commuting each day. Without a long and arduous commute, the start of the day suddenly becomes more relaxed – it gives you time to get things in order, plan your day and implement a daily routine that helps you to get things done. Instead of arriving at work stressed by the rush hour traffic, you ‘arrive’ undisturbed, with your mind clear and more focused on the job at hand. There’s also an argument that working from home can make your team more effective communicators. The distance between colleagues and lack of face to face contact, whilst often frustrating, forces us (in some ways) to be more efficient communicators – having to get our points across as succinctly as possible, focusing on what really matters, and how we can work to add real value to our organisations.
Over the last week or so, I’ve used the time I’d usually spend commuting going on a walk. It helps set me up for the day. No distractions, no dramatic news stories. It can also be a great time to think about the day ahead and reflect; ‘What do I need to get done?’ ‘What are my priorities?’ ‘How could I do this one thing better?’ This is an opportunity we don’t always get in a typical working day. Also, this can be a great time for personal development – There’s a great deal of online courses, seminars, podcasts and audiobooks around to fit everybody’s pedagogical needs and desires. Some simple steps (as I’m sure you’ve seen in a million WFH articles before) have also helped me to make the most of being at home; adopting a daily routine not dissimilar to that I have in the office helps me to stay focused and grounded during the day; taking short, regular breaks to get away from the computer and stretch my legs; and working in a place with copious amounts of natural light, tea, and space to move about in.
So, whilst working from home may be a relatively novel and relatively challenging experience for some of us, myself included, I feel the scope for opportunity is equal in measure. Together, we can do our bit to fight this virus by staying at home, and in the process, we might just become better, more educated, well-rounded workers.
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