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  • Luke Munro

Lockdown - Three Months In

Today marks exactly three months since lockdown in the UK began. While some of the restrictions are being lifted across different parts of the country, there has been little sign of a real return to traditional office-style working. Thousands of us are still commandeering one end of the dining room table while fighting over the home broadband.


During 2019, fewer than 30% of workers had worked from home, according to the Office for National Statistics. Whereas, in the last three months, multiple surveys have put the number of home-workers as high as around 90% of the total workforce. It also looks likely that the numbers of those working from home will continue to remain high over the coming months, even as restrictions are lifted.


So, what have we learned here at Wellworking in this period, working closely as we have with both employers and individuals adapting to home working? There are three key areas that keep cropping up:


Furniture

As we begin to accept that home working is here to stay in some form or other, the home office set-up is becoming increasingly more important. Homeworkers have realised that while their dining table or sofa may have been fine for the odd time working from home, working at the wrong height desk or in a chair that can’t be adjusted is no longer acceptable or healthy for longer periods. Consequently, ergonomic chairs and laptop accessories that can be packed away in the evening have been some of the most sought-after items on our website over the last few months.


Guidance

Many employees reported that in the initial stages of lockdown their employer was slow to advise on healthy remote working, as they mistakenly believed that this situation was going to be short term. That’s why, for many firms, there was a steep learning curve to make sure that their employees’ health and safety was being looked after while they worked from home, just as it would have been if they were in the office. Increasingly, we are providing our clients with home working assessments for their employees via video calls and supplying them with the necessary follow-up equipment. Our virtual product user training and set-up is proving particularly popular right now.


Wellbeing

This takes us onto our third observation. Many people we have spoken to have reported their wellbeing has suffered since having to work from home. Incorrect workstation set-ups have led to more neck and back complaints or just simply discomfort. Workers say they are more fatigued, both physically and mentally, as they work longer hours and take less breaks away from the screen. Issues with IT and the new reliance on video conferencing have led to a more stressful and tiring experience. Without the usual workplace routine, there aren’t the natural breaks in the day. While very few would say they miss the commute, that journey to work would often have had natural movement and exercise built in, which people are now missing out on. All of that is on top of the increased isolation and disconnect that is affecting many people stuck at home. The Mental Health Foundation found almost a quarter of UK adults had experienced loneliness during lockdown with this statistic increasing to 44% among those in the 18-24 age bracket.

A modern metal and wooden office desk stylish desk chair

Yet while the above are the negative effects of lockdown, a number of positives have also emerged.


The data is still coming in but initial results from a large international survey by Leesman have found that in general there are many tasks that workers are finding they can do more easily from home or that they are more productive. Indeed, several other smaller surveys are reporting that large proportions of the workforce would like to continue working from home, at least in part, even when restrictions are lifted. Not having to suffer a commute, enjoying more time with their families and being able to be more flexible with their work hours are just some of the advantages being cited.


And so to the future. What will the next three months look like,or indeed the next year? What has become apparent is that there is a new appreciation of what makes for a good work environment, whether that is at home, in a co-working space, or in a traditional office. Some people are beginning to understand that there are actually many aspects of their office that are actually pretty good.


During lockdown, workers and their employers have had their eyes opened to just what is possible. The workplace will never be the same again, but there will always be those for whom the city-centre office is the best place for them. However, there are also increasing numbers of those for whom home is a better work environment, and who will push to make their lockdown experience, or at least a part of it, their working future.


Luke Munro - Welworking Managing Director

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