On the 10th July Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that staff could obtain the right to work from home under new legislation. Reduced capacity in offices, less commutes and working day flexibility are just some of the factors pushing this forward – but with such a radical change to the working day on the horizon, we’re considering whether alternative solutions are far more practical.
Hancock is keen to promote working from home as a new ‘norm’ across the UK and has even suggested that this is something that “good” employers will be accommodating going forward. However, there is far more to a “good” employer than simply keeping employees at a safe distance away from company premises. Mental health, wellbeing and efficiency are also key, and this is something yet to be considered by the Health Secretary’s claims. It is clear that safety and productivity are key to moving forward in the working world but Hancock has admitted that studies need to be conducted before we can be sure that productivity would go up if the legislation was implemented – and many have reason to suspect that working from home could be counterproductive to the success the government have imagined.
In his webchat with AllBright in which these claims were made, Hancock admitted that “we need to persuade people” of the benefits of working from home, suggesting the reluctance displayed by employers. However, he may be persuading people of the wrong measures – to move forward with co-working would show significantly less resistance.
Not only is productivity a concern but all the factors that put it into place and ensure its consistency; mental health and wellbeing are key to this. Offices.co.uk conducted a pre-pandemic survey in October 2019 and found that 54% of employees missed routine when working from home and 83% felt stress caused by attempting to juggle work and home life. Fast forward a few months and that same workforce have lived through a global health crisis – those figures are bound to be distinctly worse. So, what can reduce these figures whilst keeping people out of the office?
Co-working is not only an obvious solution, but a necessary one. Replacing the ‘soft office’ of the bedroom with a clean and quiet desk nearby allows a worker to reclaim the day and implement a new working routine. Even small steps like workwear go a long way – it’s time to hang the dressing gown up! Of course, maintaining the social and formal flow of work is important but with co-working, the benefits do not stop there. Also essential to the maintenance of good mental health in the workplace is growth and development. Crisis planning need not be doom and gloom when employees are offered the chance to work on their personal skillset too – technology training, new ways of communicating and performance rewards are just some of the things to be implemented. A hybrid approach can certainly demarcate time spent between the home and the workplace, but co-working can bring them together with maximum benefits for health and wellbeing.