By Sophie Deeering
With many offices around the world closed for long periods of time over the last year, a huge percentage of people have worked from home at some stage. But just how prepared were they for this change in work setup?
While a transition to flexible and remote working has been gradually on the rise over recent years, we never could have imagined how quickly and suddenly businesses around the globe would have to adapt to unexpected long-term office closures. The situation left many companies having to swiftly provide staff with the necessary tools for working remotely and to arrange new streams of communication.
So, a year on from the beginning of the pandemic, are workers now equipped to do their jobs from home – or at least better enabled than at the start? Is remote working an effective way of working, at all? A new study by Currys PC World and Canon revealed the highs and lows of working from home. Here are some of the highlights:
IT & Telecoms professionals are the most likely to work remotely full-time
The study found that in the UK, 81% of (usually) office-based professionals have worked from home at least part-time at some stage in their career. This has affected a multitude of different industries, but the findings suggest that IT and Telecoms professionals are the most likely to work from home full-time. This is possibly due to the technical advantages that come with the job.
The data also revealed that the larger the business, the more likely employees are to work remotely. During the pandemic, it’s possible bigger companies enforced remote working to avoid overcrowding in large offices. It’s also possible that they simply have the available resource to coordinate remote working better.
A quarter of workers get by on minimal equipment when working from home
For many businesses, working from home has been a long-term arrangement throughout the pandemic and there’s potential that this could even lead to more permanent changes in the way employees work going forward. This said, workers continue to raise concerns about not having the appropriate setup at home to work effectively.
The study found that almost a quarter of British workers report getting by on minimal equipment when working from home, 20% say they are missing a couple of essential items they need for their job, and 16% simply don’t have the room at home for office equipment. A further 1 in 5 state that the thing they dislike the most about working from home is that they don’t have a good home-office setup. This is unfortunate given that so many businesses have been working remotely for some time now, and it’s possible it could have had a negative impact on performance and job satisfaction.
IT & Telecoms, Architecture & Engineering and Arts & Culture employers are among the most likely to provide employees with equipment
Looking at how different industries fare in terms of their work setup at home, IT and Telecoms professionals are some of the most likely to say their employer provided them with the necessary equipment to work remotely. Those working in architecture & engineering, arts & culture, and manufacturing & utilities say the same. At the other end of the scale, HR professionals are most likely to say their employers won’t or haven’t supplied them with the necessary equipment.
As mentioned earlier, larger companies are likely to be in a better position to offer their staff equipment to work from home, than those of a smaller scale and on a smaller budget. In fact, 41% of those working for companies with 500 or more employees said their company provided them with equipment to work from home, compared with just 28% of those working in a company with under 50 employees.
Employees miss printers, desks and computer screens the most when working from home
A lot of companies may be able to supply their employees with the basics, such as a laptop to work from home, however, they may not be able to stretch to other equipment that staff regularly rely on in the office. When asked what office equipment they miss the most when working remotely, the study respondents’ top answers were printers, desks, computer screens and specialist equipment.
While 22% of IT and Telecoms professionals say they don’t miss any office equipment at all (possibly because their employer supplied them with what they need), they are among some of the most likely to miss the office coffee machine! The only industries longing for their office caffeine fix more are finance, and retail & catering.
Interestingly, HR professionals were most likely to say they miss specialist equipment of all sectors and those working in architecture, engineering & building miss their desk space and printers the most.
Remote working has a positive impact on focus, but negative impact on collaboration
Beyond equipment, respondents in the study were asked what they think are the best and worst things about working from home and what they feel they can do better in the office. The consensus was that working from home is good for focus, with 55% saying they concentrate better at home and 26% saying they find it easier to complete technical tasks. This is likely thanks to having a quieter environment to work in, away from the hustle and bustle of a busy office space.
On the other hand, remote working can pose challenges when interacting with others. 46% said collaboration is much easier in the office, while 34% said the same about communication and 32% about meetings. In a similar domain, 23% say their least favourite thing about working from home is that is lacks the social aspect the office offers.
28% of office workers want to work remotely in the future
With so many of us embracing the work-from-home lifestyle, is it possible that we could adopt this way of working on a more permanent basis? If employees have any say in it, it certainly seems like we could. 28% of office workers say they would like to work from home permanently going forward, and a further 44% would like to split their time between the office and home.
Only time will tell if this period in time will mark a significant shift in the nature of office jobs. But if it is likely that employees will continue to work from home regularly, employers still have time to ensure their staff have the support and kit they need to perform at their best.
Sophie Deeering is a freelance writer, exploring topics surrounding business, wellbeing and technology.