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Three quarters say home-working improves work-life balance, but HCR surveys show it’s not without risks

Three-quarters of people feel that home-working positively impact their work-life balance, according to research from Harrison Clark Rickerbys (HCR).

But the Cambridge law firm also found that 30 per cent are working longer hours than they did in the office - and 17 per cent say home-working is having a negative effect on their wellbeing.

Inger Anson, partner and head of HCR’s Cambridge office
Inger Anson, partner and head of HCR’s Cambridge office

HCR conducted a survey among 500 people in two parts - the first between July and September 2019 and the second during the pandemic between May and June 2020, with further interviews in the second half of last year.

The top 100 law firm’s findings have just been published in a white paper, ‘Future Workspaces - what is the future of the office?’, which highlights the need for employers to take action to ensure they are looking after their employees as they work remotely.

Inger Anson, partner and head of HCR’s Cambridge office, said: “Our working landscape has changed forever We conducted this research in order to understand what the future looks like for ourselves as an employer and for our clients, before and after Covid-19. The insights have been fascinating.”

Among the insights are:

  • The absence of the daily commute is what 19 per cent feel is the biggest benefit of working from home
  • 56 per cent are working about the same number of hours, while 31 per cent said they were working more and 13 per cent were working less
  • While before the pandemic 91 per cent said they were more or equally effective when working from home, this was 82 per cent during the pandemic - and the number who felt they were less effective rose from nine to 18 per cent
  • Likewise, while 75 per cent pre-pandemic said working from home improved their wellbeing, this had declined slightly to 61 per cent, while the numbers who felt it had a negative impact rose from 3 per cent to 17 per cent.

The rise in those with negative feelings towards home-working could reflect, of course, the fact that home-working has been imposed on many more people, whether they wished it or not, in an unrelenting full-time way at a time of crisis - and amid the challenges of home-schooling.

One respondent said: “It’s easier to work more hours now I’m working from home, because I don’t switch off and without the commute, have more free time, which tends to be taken up with work.”

Another said: “I’m more rested as I don’t have to get up so early and I’m ready to go out for an evening walk one hour earlier than when in the office. Overall, I’m less tired.”

Summing up the mixed views, one said: “It’s swings and roundabouts really. I save two hours per day on my commute, but invariably work into the evening. However, I do have half and hour here and there during the day for family time/house jobs.

Perhaps most strikingly, 76 per cent said home-working did improve their work-life balance, only narrowly down from 78 per cent pre-pandemic.

Clare Day, a partner at HCR
Clare Day, a partner at HCR

Clare Day, a partner at HCR who has been closely involved in the research, adds: “The rapid roll out of homeworking in response to Covid-19 has had many positive impacts, but it is not without risk.

“We found that there had been tensions around remote working that existed pre-Covid, which may have a bearing. The research revealed a perception gap between employers and employees when it came to homeworking. Before it became a lockdown necessity, almost a third (32%) of workers said their bosses didn’t allow homeworking, while in the same survey it was a tiny proportion, just 5%, of employers who said they didn’t endorse homeworking.

“This suggests there may be some cultural barriers to homeworking in many businesses, as well as some practical policy issues. Now, as we face lockdown again, we would urge employers to take steps to improve their support for homeworkers.”

HCR urges employers to take three actions:

  • Review and refresh remote working policies to ensure they are explicit and take account of Covid-related changes in work patterns
  • Provide help for managers to support workers remotely, including effective communication and assessing worker wellbeing
  • Find new ways of measuring productivity, defining clear goals for employees whether working from the office or home.

See the white paper in full at https://adobe.ly/38Us6Hu.

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