Is flexible working the future?

Digital Ethos

A TUC study shows that the average commute in 2018 was almost 59 minutes (combining to and from journeys) and that the longest commutes were experienced by people in London, the South East and the East of England. Before COVID-19, the norm was to travel to the office every day, which meant commuting by car, foot, bike, bus, tram or train - but now, that’s all changing.

Microsoft Surface and YouGov have recently created a Work Smarter to Live Better report that states nearly nine out of 10 employees (87%) reported that their businesses have adapted to hybrid working.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the benefits and challenges of both working from home and the office to get a better picture.

The benefits of working from home

Although some employers may have been reluctant to allow remote working, the COVID-19 shift has forced employees to work from home and, in turn, has demonstrated that many of the workforce can be just as focused (some even more so) when working remotely.

Some of the key benefits of working from home include: 

  • Save time on commuting - without the need to physically travel to work, employees can sleep for longer or enjoy a morning activity. Whether they choose to read a few chapters of a book, go for a run or enjoy a yoga class - employees are able to focus on themselves before clocking in.

  • Money savings - employees are able to save money instead of spending on travel and lunches out, which is incredibly important as they’re likely to be saving for a house, wedding or their children.

  • Positive environmental impact - in 2020, the UK saw a significant change in CO2 emissions - as it had fallen by 10.7% in 2020 in comparison to 2019, this was mainly due to the fact that more people were working from home.

  • Independence - with the ability to work from home, there’s a broader range of job opportunities out there which means people aren’t restricted to their geographical location.

  • Fewer interruptions - with quieter noise levels, no office politics and fewer interruptions to worry about, employees can be much more productive and get their to-do list done.

The challenges of working from home
For some, working from home really hasn’t been all it’s cracked up to be. At home, people can be juggling children, pets, family, friends or housemates - which makes meetings difficult and bandwidth a struggle.

Let's take a look at some of the most common challenges people have faced working from home: 

  • Little distinction between personal and professional life - the home is typically a place for relaxation which means, for many, working from home can taint this and make it feel as though they’re never really separate from emails or phone calls.

  • Distractions - it might be the case that you house share, have family living with you, children or pets - all of which can make your mind wander away from the day job. This is why it’s important - where possible - to have a designated ‘office space’ at home to avoid these distractions.

  • Social isolation - for some, the best thing about going to work is socialising and for those that live alone, working from home can be very isolating and might make social butterflies turn to their phones during working hours.

  • Difficult to network - if you’ve started a new job and you don’t know anybody it can be hard to network with clients and peers. Although there’s video conferencing - there’s nothing quite like meeting new people in person to get the full experience.

The benefits of working from the office
While technology has allowed us to work from home and regularly communicate with family and friends on other sides of the world, there are still things that working from home can’t offer.

Some of the most common benefits people have missed out on whilst working from  home include: 

  • Enjoy the business culture - when a team is sat together, there’s likely to be more creativity, productivity and retention because there’s internal support that keeps them going and striving for more.

  • Keep work and life separate - by being in the office, employees can be physically and mentally separated from home, which helps if there’s a lot of stressful things going on. If people can switch off from home/work, they’re likely to be happier with both aspects of their lives.

  • Quality, designated work space - not everyone has the luxury of having an office at home, which is why the work office is always a guarantee that you’ll have the tools and space required to get a good job done. By law, office spaces must provide adequate equipment to ensure the welfare of staff - for example, supportive chairs and keyboards.

  • Make friends and connections - it’s much easier to make friends with people in person as you can check in at any time, rather than having to schedule a video call. Being readily available to chat makes it much easier to make better friends and connections in the workplace.

  • Encouraged to take part in different projects - when overhearing topics, it’s much easier for employees to get involved with or share ideas about projects that they’re not involved with, which can help to spark healthy competition!

The challenges working from the office

From noisy colleagues to soul-sucking commutes, there’s plenty of reasons why many of us have rejoiced at the prospect of remote working. Let’s take a look at them in detail: 

  • Travel - the average person in the UK in 2019 spent around an hour travelling for work, which means their working week is typically 5 hours longer than their paid hours (not accounting for transport delays and traffic).
  • Time and wellbeing - with travel in the mix, a lot of people tend to skip breakfast and simply get ready to travel in the mornings, which means they have less ‘me time’ before work.

  • Office politics - rivalries, tea rounds and gossip are all part of any office’s complex social structure, all of which can disrupt working or, for some, even make them feel left out.

  • Interruptions - with people around to ask questions, it can be hard to say no even when you’re trying to focus on one project and deadlines are looming.

Our approach

At Digital Ethos, we promote a healthy work-life balance and we’re taking a flexible approach to help our team adjust to the new changes we’re now used to. This means that our team has the option to come into the office for meetings and collaborate, and work from home when they need to focus on projects and have some down time.

Most recently, we have been employing people outside of the UK and opening up offices across Europe. This is because we believe in equality of opportunity and finding the right people for the job. We have designed a workflow that enables people from a variety of locations to connect, share knowledge and coordinate with the wider team to maintain our high level of innovation and performance.

Has COVID-19 changed the way you work for good?