Businesses are scrambling their resources to make sure the sudden, pandemic-led shift to homeworking doesn't threaten staff health, wellbeing and company culture, a Posturite survey has found.
You can download the infographic of our results here, or keep reading to explore our findings.
Our September-long online survey of close to 200 UK businesses has given us a fascinating insight into how employers are dealing with the office exodus, what measures they’re taking to protect the health and wellbeing of out-of-sight staff, and how homeworking is set to become a permanent feature even after the pandemic-level threat is over.
- Before lockdown, most businesses (80.5%) had no plan to increase their number of homeworkers
- Now most organisations say they will offer some level of homeworking beyond 2021
- The vast majority (90%) of employers still plan to give staff the option to work from a dedicated office
- Top concerns for homeworkers are workstation health, wellbeing and maintaining company culture
- A resounding 98.1% of respondents said they are providing ergonomic equipment to their homeworkers - with most of it coming from the office
What will the working week look like after the pandemic?
There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has changed the way we work. Even once the pandemic-level threat is over, it’s unlikely that we’ll all flock straight back to our offices for the traditional Monday-to-Friday 9-to-5.
Employers who were wary of homeworking before lockdown now have an unexpected opportunity to experience the benefits first-hand. Our survey suggests that most organisations’ experience of homeworking has so far been positive. A significant three-quarters (75%) of respondents now have plans to increase the number of homeworkers in their organisation over the next two years, compared to just 15% pre-lockdown. It seems that homeworking is here to stay for much longer than the government’s current projection of six months.
Since the start of lockdown, attitudes towards homeworking have improved
The benefits of homeworking, which include better work-life balance, lower overheads, lower emissions and reduced work-related stress, seem to be paying off for many organisations. One respondent told us:
"The company has recognised that a lot of our positions can be done from home and we are now looking at more flexible workplace functionality, with some full time onsite, flexible, fully working from home and hot-desking."
Most of us will split our time between the office and our homes in the near future
For all the benefits of homeworking, it still has its draw-backs. If you are one of the many lockdown homeworkers pining for face-to-face contact in a bricks and mortar office, then fear not. A resounding 90% of employers said that they plan to have their offices open and available for staff as soon as it is safe to do so.
The majority of respondents stated that they expect up to 60% of their staff to be working full or part time in the office for the foreseeable future. Only 14% said they would expect all of their staff to work permanently at the office all of the time.
With staff out of sight, health and wellbeing is a bigger concern than ever
While employers are opening their minds to homeworking, there are still some concerns about health, wellbeing, productivity and company culture.
Few organisations were prepared for the sudden, mass migration to homeworking in March. They had to scramble to equip staff with the tools they needed to do their jobs. The good news is that — at least among the organisations who took part in our survey, the importance of having suitable equipment at home is well understood. Only 1.9% said they wouldn’t supply any products at all to homeworking staff.
The most frequently supplied products are (in order of most likely to least likely to be supplied):
- Ergonomic mice = 17.6%
- Keyboards = 17.5%
- Monitor arms = 16.4%
- Chairs = 15.6%
- Laptop stands = 14.9%
- Fixed desks = 9.6%
- Sit-stand desk/platforms = 6.6%
- None = 1.9%
But where is this equipment coming from? Almost half (44.4%) of respondents said they provided staff with equipment they already had in the office, while over a third (36%) purchased new equipment for homeworkers. Posturite’s founder and CEO Ian Fletcher-Price said:
"While it’s clear from the survey results that sit-stand desks are not currently a priority for most employers, it’s encouraging to know that the basics are being provided. Having an adjustable chair, ergonomic mouse, keyboard and monitor arms or a laptop stand is absolutely imperative for anyone who works all day at their computer. Why risk the development of very costly musculoskeletal issues when the solution is as simple as providing employees with a few pieces of equipment?
"For those who take health and wellbeing seriously and have the budget to do so, adding a sit-stand desk to a homeworker’s set-up can — as our ground-breaking study with UCL a few years ago proved, boost concentration, creativity, mood and activity levels amongst several other remarkable benefits. Having the option to sit or stand throughout the day also helps prevent static postures that often lead to back, neck and shoulder pain. I encourage employers to really emphasise the importance of regular movement and good working postures at home, and to give their staff the tools to make it possible."
The issue of wellbeing
Other major concerns highlighted in the survey include issues with isolation — limiting opportunities for serendipitous encounters between departments and spontaneous idea sharing, and the risk of disengagement. Without the social element of face-to-face work, mental health can begin to suffer and it can be harder to identify employees who are struggling in the confines of their own home.
While it’s clear from our survey that organisations still have some issues to iron out, it seems the benefits of homeworking far outweigh the risks. In times of uncertainty, being prepared and having the infrastructure in place to be as flexible as possible is the best way of adapting and surviving challenging times.
The responses gathered in our survey suggest encouragingly that the UK’s employers are making the best of a difficult situation and using this time as a catalyst for positive change. With the right tools, equipment and support in place we believe homeworking can improve the productivity, wellbeing and work-life balance of individuals in the long-run.
If you are interested in finding out more, you can download the data we collected from our survey here.
How can we help?
We specialise in helping organisations make smooth, successful transitions to homeworking. You can use us to find suitable homeworking equipment like desks and chairs, or conduct remote and face-to-face DSE assessments.
We can also provide health and safety consultation and risk assessments to support a more flexible environment for your staff. Simply fill out our quick online form and we’ll be in touch to help.