Blurring The Boundaries – Has Our Workday Become Longer Since Lockdown?

I’ve spoken a lot over the past couple of years about the agile workforce, and, like many other forward-thinking organisations, we’d done our research here at Greenacre, and put in place a remote working structure for our teams as we recognised the changing global work environment.

We knew that statistically, with the right organisational support in place, individuals generally work better, are happier and produce better outcomes when able to perform their job tasks at times optimum to their own personal performance. We also knew that cutting out travel time and expenses not only benefitted the company financially, it also allowed team members to use that time more productively and allowed them to better prepare for their day, as well as being able to work more around family commitments.

The Arrival Of The ‘New Normal’ And Its Impact

As the Pandemic took hold, it became evident to those organisations who were previously sceptical or afraid of ‘losing control’ of their remote workers that for the most part, their fears were unfounded. For many, as employees were given more freedom to take control of their own workday, and with the correct support and communications in place, trust increased, productivity increased and wellbeing among staff increased. OKTA’s survey conducted in May 2020 of 6000 individuals (The New Workplace. Re-imagining work after 2020) supports this, showing that lockdown gave people a chance to re-imagine their work-life balance, and many were surprised to discover that ditching the commute increased productivity, lowered stress and promoted a healthier lifestyle.

A recent study by the Office For National Statistics found the average level of anxiety across the population has fallen since March and the beginning of the lockdown, although general feeling around the economy and a ‘return to normal’ are still somewhat subdued, and other societal factors surrounding the current pandemic must be considered when looking at the overall impact of remote working.

From our own organic research, we found the additional enforced isolation of many employees due to Covid19 had a significant impact on individuals, according to their own person circumstances, especially those who lived alone, had complex home lives or needed social interaction to positively affect their wellbeing, and although remote working was beneficial in many ways, isolation played a major part in how they felt about going back to a ‘normal’ working environment.

As of today, for nearly half of all workers in the UK, home working has become a way of life (ONS), however, as furlough is phased out, the number of those returning to daily office and on site life is set to steadily increase, and many who simply cannot do certain aspects of their job at home (such as construction and front line workers for example) now need a different kind of support structure, as well as a fresh evaluation of how previous work practice has changed.

A Different Kind Of Discipline

For those continuing to work from home, it has become essential to commit to a more defined work/life balance, so the boundaries between work and home life do not become too homogenous, and a healthy separation can occur. For many, it has become almost too easy to keep working way past normal hours to finish certain projects or tasks, or even to make oneself available when we would otherwise have downed tools for the day and switched off before returning to homelife. As more and more of our work colleagues, clients and customer’s workdays become more flexible, it can be even harder to discipline ourselves to create a healthy balance when we see so many others still switched on to the virtual treadmill.

In July 2020, the National Bureau of Economic Research carried out a global study of 3.1 Million people across 2000 companies and found that since lockdown began, on average, we log longer hours, attend more meetings (although for shorter lengths of time) and send more emails than before the pandemic enforced remote working conditions began.

As home working becomes a permanent fixture for many companies across the globe it is becoming much more important than before to prioritise employee wellbeing and it has become clear it is intrinsically connected to staff happiness, motivation, retention and productivity. Barry Forsythe, our Midlands Head, has been doing background research, which we will publish shortly, on many of the housing organisations we work with across the country, to look at the impact of the pandemic on the UK housing sector, and staff wellbeing has shown to be one of the driving factors in creating strong and solid organisations that can withstand external impacts as we move forward.

Re-imagining Our Own Workspace And Creating A Healthy Balance

Ultimately, as we take control of our own time, energy and productivity, as individuals it is up to us to ensure we create a better work life balance for ourselves and understand that in order to reap the benefits of a more flexible and agile work routine, it is vitally important to create defined spaces, take regular breaks and communicate clearly with our employers and partners, to ensure we are all on the same page and are supporting each other to achieve the best outcomes.

If you would like support in helping your organisation to adjust to the new normal, contact us via our website or social media platforms, or visit our Insights page for more tips and advice on recruitment, organisational management, strategy and other topics affecting the housing industry.

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