Are you back working from home again?

Posted on 7 Sep 2022

As recently as July we discussed what many perceived to be the “new norm” for employers and employees across the UK, working on a full or part-time basis from home.

Back in January 2021, opinions on working from home appeared generally positive, but nevertheless a move to hybrid working later in the year quickly itself became the “new norm”, and many workers returned to their offices full time by the end of the year. However, with new guidance last December encouraging people to work from home once again, how have opinions and attitudes to working patterns changed over the past 12 months? What effect has this had on IT and recruitment departments? And what might the future of work resemble?

Working from home – a brief history

Reflecting back now, January 2021 seems like a distant memory. Working from home was the standard, and had been for many since March 2020, and those who were unable to work from home continued to be supported by the furlough scheme. According to figures from the Office of National Statistics and reported by the BBC, just under 36% of workers across Britain completed some form of work from home in 2020. However, by November 2021, the same report found that seven in ten workers travelled to the office on at least one occasion, and a further one in seven had adopted the hybrid model of working, completing some days at home and some in the office.

The arrival of December 2021, however, saw a return of new COVID guidelines and advice to try and curb the spread of the new Omicron variant. In Scotland, it became a legal requirement for employers to allow staff to work from home where possible, and in Wales, it became illegal to work from an office if you had the capability to work from home.

In contrast to previous lockdown guidance in England, however, whilst guidance was published advising people, specifically office workers, to work from home where possible, it is not a legal requirement. So although firms still have to provide Covid-secure workplaces, and many people who cannot work from home continue to commute to their workplace, it looks as though those who can work from home are also continuing to travel to their place of work. So has there been an attitudinal shift regarding working from home? And how have working patterns changed in the past 12 months?

Changing attitudes to working from home

Working from home was once regarded as a positive change to how we work, and here to stay. Despite this, a study by the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (the IWFM) found that three quarters of the 1,000 people studied assumed they would return to their offices by the close of the first working week in January.

But why have attitudes shifted so rapidly over the course of a year?

Interactions with colleagues and good mental health play a major role in employees’ decisions. Current remote working patterns can lead to stress and burnout and may ultimately lead to higher volumes of leave for illness or even resignations. Hybrid working should offer the best of two world but for many it offers the worst of both.

How well do you support your employees? Apparently, one in five employees feel unsupported by their employers, and one in three complain that their employers fail to equip them sufficiently to work from home, which reveals the vital work IT staff continue to play in making multiple working patterns a success. But how have changing workplace attitudes affected IT?

Effect on IT and Recruitment

This remains a critical time for IT staff, as they face pressure from their employers to source, understand, set up, and maintain new software and equipment suitable for hybrid and/or remote working. It remains likely that IT staff will be required to understand office working and remote working patterns, whilst continuing to protect staff and organisations from the rising number of cyber attacks.

Recruitment departments may need to modernise to attract the best talent, now we have seen a shift of power from employer to employee. However, it could be argued that modernisation attempts could be delayed as recruitment departments navigate changing attitudes to the workplace, and place priority instead on optimising hybrid working patterns. This could have a knock-on effect and leave organisations with unfilled vacancies. But how much can we read into the future of the workplace?

Future of working patterns

If we’ve learned anything from the past 12 months, it’s that you cannot predict what the next 12 months will bring. At present, it looks as though for many office-based workers, such as those in IT or Recruitment, will continue to try and adopt a flexible working pattern. This may be primarily office-based, but with the adaptability and portability to work remotely, or vice versa. One thing that looks likely, however, is how attitudes to working patterns looks set to constantly evolve and change.

What are your opinions on working from home or hybrid working? Are they successful, or do believe they encourage poor mental health and burnout? We’d be really interested to hear your thoughts.