Introduction

Will Work From Home Be With Us For Good?

How Many People Work From Home?

Working from home used to be rare in Britain. A report from the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research in August 2020 revealed that in 1981, only 1.5% of persons in employment reported working mainly from home. As recently as 2019, this had increased to 4.7% – more than tripling in less than three decades but giving no indication of the explosion that was to follow within a few months.

By April 2020, as the global coronavirus pandemic began to hit and the UK entered lockdown for the first time, 43.1% were reported as working from home. By June, the situation appeared to be easing and that figure dropped to 36.5%.

However, the report was published before the UK’s second lockdown in October and the third lockdown in January 2021. It is likely that work at home figures will have climbed again during these periods, given also that 2020 saw up to 85,000 new businesses created in the UK following Covid-related redundancies.

How Has Work From Home Affected Productivity?

The same WISERD report told that many employers feared that without supervision, workers would shirk and productivity would fall. In many instances, however, their fears appear to have been dispelled. In June 2020:

  • 40.9% of homeworkers said their productivity was the same
  • 28.9% said their productivity had improved
  • only 30.2% said that their productivity had fallen.

Interestingly, those who worked exclusively from home reported higher productivity than those who did so intermittently.

Do Staff Prefer Working From Home?

For some workers, working from home has brought many benefits. Some are glad they don’t have to make the long daily commute to the office, while others appreciate the flexibility it gives them to balance work and family. Not everyone thrives in a large, open-plan office environment, and some have found that working from home brings fewer distractions.

This is shown in the WISERD report:

  • 88.2%) would like to continue some form of homeworking
  • 47.3% want to work at home often or all of the time
  • 50.0% of those who experienced homeworking for the first time during Covid-19 restrictions would like to still work at home part- or full-time, even after restrictions are lifted

But there are also employees who dislike working from home and want to return to the office. There are several reasons:

  • They are unable to create a proper workspace at home
  • They are distracted by household chores, other family members or simply by being at home
  • They miss the camaraderie and ‘buzz’ of the office
  • Isolation and loneliness have caused mental health issues

How Do Employers Regard Homeworking?

The widespread use of technology such as videoconferencing, VOIP phones and cloud-based systems has removed many of the obstacles to remote working, and in spite of some initial scepticism, many employers are now realising that the company, as well as the employees, might benefit from homeworking.

  • A long-term decision to have employees working from home can reduce the costs of leasing, furnishing, heating and equipping office space
  • Time previously spent in travel to and from work and more flexible working hours can be used to create a better work-life balance, resulting in improved staff morale, wellbeing and retention
  • Decentralisation can open up a wider geographical area from which to recruit top talent

Will Working From Home Be The Future?

While some companies will still benefit from having most or all of their employees under one roof, it is extremely likely that there will be a general shift in the direction of remote working; some companies have already made that decision.

Alan Jope, the chief executive of consumer goods group Unilever, announced this month (January 2021) that the company’s employees will not return to office-based working five days a week. If this, the third-largest company on the London Stock Exchange, has partially adopted work from home, we can anticipate that many more will follow.

At the moment, it is doubtful that businesses will scrap office-based working altogether. Companies are talking about ‘hybrid’ working, where employees’ time is divided between the office and home. Once again, technology will make this viable, and hot-desking will allow companies to reduce total office-space requirements and therefore overheads.

Keeping Data Secure In A Work From Home Environment

One factor that companies need to consider when employees are working from home is the security of documents containing sensitive data. This might be commercially sensitive information, or personal data relating to employees, patients, customers and contacts which they have a legal duty to protect under GDPR.

This information should be stored in a locked, secure cabinet accessible only to authorised keyholders, and measures must be taken to prevent the documents from being read, duplicated or removed unlawfully. When the documents are no longer relevant, they must be destroyed in a manner that prevents the data from being retrieved.

The most common method of destruction is shredding, and while many companies still rely on an office shredding machine for this, there is an increasing trend towards using a BS EN: 15713-2009 compliant data destruction service. This ensures documents are destroyed more completely and provides the company with a paper trail that ensures total compliance.

Employees working from home cannot be expected to commute to the office every time they dispose of documents, and adding the papers to household waste would be a breach of security. Cheap shredders for home use rarely shred papers finely enough to comply with regulations and most local councils will not allow shredded paper to be added to recyclable waste.

Secure data destruction company Avena has come up with a unique solution – RemoteShred – adapting its popular Securall® system to the needs of homeworkers.

With RemoteShred, the homeworker is provided with a secure, environmentally friendly container for all discarded documents. When the container is full, it is closed with a tamper-evident seal and notification is sent to Avena, who collect the sealed container from the employee’s home and supply the worker with a new container.

If you want to ensure your current arrangements or future plans for remote working from home comply with data destruction laws, call Avena and speak to one of our specialists.