Working from home is nothing new, with most work being done in the home before the advent of the Industrial Revolution and more modern ways of working such as offices and departments. In fact, a large proportion of countries still use remote methods of working as common practises, especially in Asia and Africa where infrastructure is less widespread. A lot of workers prefer to remain working from home method, however a lot of organisations and management staff hate it as it provides less oversight and control over their workers and what they are doing. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of businesses have implemented remote surveillance or digital monitoring in order to gain the insight that was lost when workers shifted into remote working back in 2020. Telecommuting, a combined approach where workers simultaneously work and display themselves on a screen or call to management has also gained popularity, though some criticise this as overbearing or controlling.

Kicking Off – The 2020 Explosion

Working from home exploded with the onset of lockdowns and restrictions implemented in early 2020, with many businesses being forced to change their ways of thinking or close their doors. Overall the number of people working from their own home doubled during 2020, though still remaining a small proportion of the workforce since the infrastructure simply does not exist for a lot of jobs to be performed remotely.

With restrictions in place a lot of organisations turned to experimental methods of working, using discovery-driven approaches to select which tasks can be performed remotely and how best to implement them. This led to a lot of revenue losses and layoffs in the early parts of the pandemic as businesses struggled to survive in the new market, however a year on the environment is more stable and organised with work from home methods being polished to a T.

The How Of Working From Home

For those who are lucky enough to be able, working from home has fundamentally changed the way employees interact with their higher-ups. For many desk jobs the transition was simple enough but some required more adaptation than simply a change of scenery. A common means of adaptation that many places utilize is software implementation, the addition of software into the business plan in order to help things flow more easily. These can be as simple as adding files to a drive or database instead of printing them out and storing them in a folder, or as complex as installing a multi-user software onto the machines of various employees for use.

An innovation which was set forth by employees themselves, but is now recommended by many organisations is the concept of a home office. It’s not a new idea, and has been around in the circles of freelancers for decades, but it turned out to be a necessary adaptation for many – the separation of home and work environments when they are in the same building, and sometimes even in the same room! It’s been well documented that offices help people get into a “workplace mindset”, while returning home can have the reverse effect making employees far less productive as they are in a space they associate with relaxation. The NHS themselves recommended to the British workforce the physical separation into a work environment that one would then leave when the workday is over and it’s time to unwind. This can pose a challenge, especially for those who use the same computer to both work and relax, but it is certainly possible and is highly recommended by mental health practitioners.

The Drive to Remain Working From Home

Many jobs have shifted almost entirely to a remote working situation, with a huge number of employees working from their own homes and on their own schedule if they are under more relaxed leadership. The question then remains, why should those workers return to office life?

Offices are cramped, noisy and hectic. They also take time to get to which could be spent doing other things and enjoying life, not simply stuck in traffic or waiting at a bus or train stop. Studies have found that the average London commuter spends 74 minutes a day in transit to their job, a huge waste of time in the long run! It’s more convenient for the worker, and with the right infrastructure can be highly beneficial to the business too. A happy worker is a productive worker, after all.

Issues With WFH

There are, however, several factors which prohibit the transition to full-time WFH that need to be considered. Firstly is the cost of such a venture, with computers and software needing to be provided to employees as their home computers may not necessarily be able to handle the software requirements that their job presents. There is also the factor of software licenses needing to be distributed to every employee, even when it might only be needed very occasionally – this could be achieved on a single shared machine in an office setting. While these problems aren’t insurmountable, many organisations will choose not to implement them to save money.

Secondly, the lack of supervision that WFH workers experience is both a blessing and a curse. Management members are heavily against WFH as a concept, putting them directly at odds with their employees which can create friction. In fields which require more hands-on supervision and direction, WFH is a tricky situation as employers toe the line between not enough insight and being overbearing to their workers which pushes productivity down.

Summing Up

WFH as a concept is ideally here to stay, however there are many challenges and costs associated with it, and many employers will choose to return to office life instead of bearing these. However, the COVID-19 pandemic showed that a lot of jobs that were thought to necessitate an office could be done remotely, driving employees to demand more flexibility in their working. It’s a change that is still evolving, and we will see the results unfold in the near future.