For many, it’s been a regular way of working for some time, but for many UK employees, it’s an adjustment that’s taking some getting used to, but is working from home the future? Back in 2015, approximately 4.2 million people were working from home across the UK, an increase by a quarter of a million people over the previous decade, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The predictions then were that half of the UK workforce would be working remotely by 2020. Fast forward five years to the present day, most people would not have foreseen the current circumstances across the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring those who can work from home to do so. It’s been a difficult adjustment for some individuals, including businesses, to get remote working up and running efficiently, so where does the future now stand with working from home, especially once a countrywide lockdown has been lifted?
Is Working from Home the Future?
Recent statistics from the ONS have seen a steady increase in the proportion of people who say they work from home. Last year, a reported 1.7 million people said they mainly work from home, with another 4 million saying they work from home for some of the time during the week. This was still before the coronavirus begun to change our daily lives throughout the UK. So, what sectors of industry are mainly seeing people working from home? 14.8% surveyed by ONS work within information and communication, followed closely by 12.8% in scientific and technical activities. The sectors that see the least amount of working from home are within water supply, sewerage and waste (1.9%) as well as transport and storage (1.8%).There are still some jobs that will never fully go remote due to the nature of the work, while others have many opportunities to blossom from it. It all comes down to the advancements in technology that has seen remote working rise and rise over the years. 60% of the UK’s adult population is currently working from home due to current restrictions. The question is, of this amount, how many will begin to see the benefits of remote working in future?
Does Working Online From Home Really Work?
The rise in remote working over the last few years has helped, in some part, businesses to be prepared for the current pandemic. If this situation had happened before the internet age and improvements to telecommunication, many companies would have struggled to work normally without staff being physically in their workplaces. With companies becoming much more flexible due to advancements in their work processes, industries that were already embracing remote working have been able to adjust much quicker than others. Last year, 68% of UK businesses reported having a flexible workspace policy, with 73% of UK workers considering flexible working as the new normal.
Working from home can be a success if the right conditions are met, which is why many companies do incorporate a flexible working or remote working policy. 70% of 18 to 34-year-olds, for example, regularly take up the option to remote work wherever possible when these policies are in place. This comes down to people wanting to find the right work and life balance, something working from home, even just some of the time, can bring. However, for all the positives, some struggle to adapt away from the hustle and bustle of daily working life, with 1 in 5 remote workers saying they struggle with loneliness.Finding what works for you when remote working can take some time to work out and mentally adjust to.
Remote Working in the Finance Sector
The financial sector has seen disruption before in recent memory, most notably during the financial crisis of 2008. The fallout from that was a similar landscape to the present day, with many people losing their jobs and financial uncertainty being felt by many. So, with the current situation, how has the financial sector coped with lockdown measures and working from home? There are many challenges that remote working brings, none more so when it comes to dealing with sensitive customer data and security. No matter if a company specialises in short term loans, mortgages or even credit cards, the handling of sensitive data is a concern if the correct working from home policies aren’t adhered to. The level of cybersecurity in place within a financial organisation is likely to not compare to that of an employee’s own WiFi network at home. This factors into the types of roles and services that can be safely carried out over remote working, with many tasks still requiring a physical presence in an office building.
It was reported in March 2020 that Royal Bank of Scotland urged office staff to work from home as was the same with 8,000 KPMG employees. However, Lloyds of London closed down their underwriting room for the first time in its history because of lockdown measures. Many of the largest companies in the finance sector, including Barclays, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, have adjusted by placing teams at disaster recovery sites as well helping set up trading facilities in worker’s homes.However, many smaller finance firms simply don’t have the infrastructure in place like the larger companies to provide workers with the tools needed to remote work, such as company laptops or business phones. Even if they do, ensuring information is encrypted and remains secure, whether that is a customer’s personal information or internal communications, can be difficult and expensive.
The Future of Home Working
Whilst some industries can adjust to working from home easily, many have a much more difficult time in doing so. Many industries, considering the current situation, have had to close their doors temporarily, leading to widespread unemployment or ‘furlough’ as remote working is not an option. People who work within the food industry or retail, for example, have seen many stores close, causing many people to lose their jobs. Since March 16 (the initial lockdown date), 1.5 million new claims for Universal Credit have been received in the UK – this is usually a figure of around 55,000 applications a week.
So, how will the future look for remote working, considering there are many jobs that can’t be carried out this way currently? The demand for more sectors to embrace working from home or to find solutions to enable it can’t be ignored. When looking for work, 70% of workers find a job much more attractive if flexible working is offered, whilst 75% say there are fewer distractions when working remotely, meaning higher productivity overall. However, more investment and thought around remote working is needed, with 62% of remote workers wanting their employers to provide better technology to help them stay connected with their colleagues.
No matter how the working world will look in a post-pandemic environment, the trend of remote working looks set to increase further still. As more and more people in the UK and around the world get used to this new way of life, adjusting back into an office environment and facing the daily commute may prove to be a backwards step for many.
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