From the office to the home: Insights from employers into new ways of working

Through conducting interview questionnaires with 20 corporate clients – ranging from Facility Managers and Heads of HR, to a number of other workplace professionals –  curatd. has been able to collate a multitude of views on the experience of transitioning to home working, and the management of teams, during lockdown. Varying from concerns and objectives, through to beneficial impacts and positive experiences of management teams and office-staff alike, we have acquired a vital understanding of the current working life and schedules of staff across the UK. 

How is the current pandemic affecting the way we work?

Employers consistently repeated concerns around the comfort and suitability of their employees’ home workspaces, identifying a marked increase in ergonomic risks due to improper equipment, lack of ergonomic assessment, and insufficient space at home for employees to work comfortably. Across the board, respondents were keen to find ways to improve home working conditions over the coming months.

Our research revealed that 58% of survey participants have provided some form of furniture for their staff, and 52% have provided IT equipment. Whilst some of these items have been taken from office stock which would otherwise remain idle during lockdown, many businesses have allocated budgets and procured new furniture for their staff, taking advantage of the new tax incentives designed to support home workers. 

What are the key requirement trends of WFH?

As a furniture dealer, we have witnessed physical health complaints from our clients relating to improper equipment at home, and subsequently supplied solutions to individuals in need. Employers are required to provide all staff with sufficient equipment and furniture, enabling them to manage tasks comfortably, swiftly and without stress. Moreover, workstations and equipment offered for home working need to be versatile pieces that can be placed in a range of living spaces. Respondents to our survey highlighted how products must be ergonomic, possess a warranty and, if a repair is required, it must be orchestrated quickly to minimise inconvenience.

Increasingly, conversations regarding the physical risks of working from home have prompted companies such as curatd. to recognise an emerging need among our clients. Due to this, the pressure on employers to provide sufficient working equipment and furniture can now be resolved – further contributing to the improvement of staff mental and physical wellbeing, and the alleviation of previous stresses that many survey participants emphasised had been felt and observed.

Transitioning from office-based work to remote working

The majority of teams we spoke with were easily able to transition from office work to remote work at the early stage of lockdown. The advent of flexible working and agile IT, which has boomed over the past five years, has been instrumental in simplifying this transition. It is now overwhelmingly clear that most traditionally office-based tasks can be performed just as successfully at home.

Over 70% of those interviewed stated that remote working posed varying difficulties for employees, with resources and equipment limited for many. A handful of employers reported instances of staff working on ironing boards, dining chairs and windowsills, highlighting the disparity in living spaces amongst the modern workforce.

Though a multitude of businesses have found the transition from office to home relatively smooth, some have struggled to carry out tasks that are paramount to their survival – for example the handling and creation of physical materials, stressing the need for a blended, balanced work approach between the office and the home. Regardless of location, employees require workspaces which are conducive to comfort and efficient working, and it is up to their employers to provide and ensure this.

The potential effect of WFH on mental health

Unsurprisingly, mental health, and particularly fears of loneliness and isolation among staff, surfaced repeatedly as a major concern; with many of our respondents concluding that, rather than the traditional office disappearing completely, it must evolve to take on a new form. In order to coexist with home work environments, offices will be utilised as places of collaboration: for weekly meetings and regular, scheduled interaction amongst staff. Flexibility has been observed as a necessity to employee productivity during the pandemic: accounts of staff flourishing through the integration of their working and family lives were consistent, and the increased flexibility to work around family and social lives has been welcomed. Moreover, an often long, stressful commute to and from the office has all but evaporated: staff and employers are welcoming less rigid timetables, no travel costs and the reduction of carbon footprints.

What does the future hold?

It is clear to see that blended working between the office and the home is here to stay. It is the responsibility of both businesses and furniture providers such as curatd. to ensure that staff are fully supported when working from home, with a focus on upholding job satisfaction, productivity, the ability to collaborate and work comfortably in such transformative times, all the while maintaining and fostering a strong work culture and identity.

To discuss a curatd. WFH solution for you and your team, get in touch with us.

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