This week marked the one-year anniversary of the UK’s first lockdown and, for many employees, it was also the first anniversary of their unexpected shift to full-time home working.
While there is no doubt the pandemic has presented numerous challenges for employers – largely due to the very sudden need to adapt working practices – perhaps one of the more positive effects has been the opportunity to offer staff more flexible working options and the impact that has had on employee wellbeing.
Research reported by Employee Benefits earlier this week from Opinium for SAP, for example, revealed that 57% of civil servants polled believe they now have a better work-life balance as a result of home working, while nearly half (49%) think they are also more productive.
Additionally, around four in five (83%) employees at organisations that promoted home working reported an improvement in work performance, with a strong link to rising engagement levels.
This explains why, even as offices reopen, some businesses are allowing their staff to decide where they work. Nationwide Building Society, for example, is giving its 13,000 employees the chance to “work anywhere” as part of a flexibility scheme so they can have more control over their work location.
But, of course, with more home working there has inevitably been an increase in virtual communications which has caused many people to tire of online interactions – dubbed ‘Zoom fatigue’.
This has been recognised by a number of employers, with organisations such as investment bank Citigroup taking the decision to introduce Zoom-free Fridays to stop employees experiencing burnout and to enable a better work-life balance.
In a memo, its CEO cited a “blurring of lines between home and work” and “the relentlessness of the pandemic workday” as reasons for the decision.
So as many of us embrace a more flexible working model post-pandemic, it is important to be mindful that, along with the benefits it presents, there are potential risks concerning employee wellbeing too.