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Is working from home just a makeshift solution, or is it here to stay?


Is the COVID-19 pandemic finally drawing to a close? Whatever the answer, numerous recent shifts – including several rounds of vaccination, the emergence of the Omicron variant and the introduction of new therapeutic drugs – have helped to blunt the pandemic’s threat.

Consequently, there has been talk of workers possibly returning to their pre-pandemic offices after about two years of regularly working from their homes. However, it remains far from conclusive that the majority of workers are keen on abandoning their home offices entirely.

Has the pandemic changed how we see working from home?

In various surveys highlighted by The Conversation, most employees have shown a reluctance to recommence commuting five days a week. Nonetheless, this has not stopped many employees from pouring – or, perhaps it should be said, trickling – back into their former workplaces.

As indicated in figures recently shared by the World Economic Forum, the share of people in the UK working from home at least some of the time grew from 27% in 2019 to 37% the following year. However, this percentage had fallen back to 30% by January 2022.

Meanwhile, in the US, the proportion of people working from home fell from 35% in May 2020 to 11% in December 2021. However, one key question remains: of workers who have indeed swapped home for their employer’s office, how many are spending a five-day workweek there?

Why hybrid working makes sense in the post-COVID landscape

Many employees have feared that letting their employees work entirely from home for the long term could bode ill for these workers’ creativity and productivity. However, there could be something of a happy compromise in the form of hybrid working.

This is where workers spend some of their work time in the traditional office and the rest of this time working from home. This work model is typified by that introduced by Google, which has asked its employees to return to the office, albeit for just three days a week, from early April.

Google has evidently acted under pressure from its employee base, given the company’s former fierce opposition to working from home. So, implementing a hybrid working model could help businesses to assuage employees’ concerns about returning to pre-pandemic habits.

How hybrid working has already proven its worth

In a survey highlighted by BBC News in February, more than 80% of managers reported that their firms had adopted hybrid working. The Chartered Management Institute (CMI), for which the survey was undertaken, has claimed that hybrid work should be embraced as “best practice”.

CMI chief executive Ann Francke has observed “an uptick in productivity, and an uptick in many companies’ results” as a result of hybrid working. A blend of home-based and office-based working would enable businesses to utilize benefits of both. 

You might not have known, for example, many ways of driving customer engagement with webinars – such as harnessing the power of video to unleash an especially immersive experience. This kind of content can help an employer to position its brand as an authority in its field.

Claire James