In the 1980’s only 1.5% of employees in the UK worked remotely. By 2016, this had risen to 9% (despite the 2014 UK legislation making it easier for all workers to negotiate a more flexible working practice).
Although technology had already made it possible to conduct business in a more remote way, prior to Covid very few had or were able to work in a remote or hybrid format.
Remote, hybrid and flexible work is here to stay
Covid has also forever shifted this perspective. Research is still catching up with how remote and hybrid work will impact us as individuals and as a collective.
But, it is important to note from a psychological point of view that the expectations of flexible and remote work are unique to each of us. What flexible work practice looks like for one team member is potentially disastrous flexible work practice for another. e.g.
- Some parents need to dedicate specific hours each day to active childcare like feeding, homework plus bed and bath times. So, a 37.5-hour 4-day work week (with extended hours each day) would dramatically decrease stress levels in trying to manage home and work responsibilities during those 4 days. What would lower stress levels for them could be to layer chunks of hours each day towards work time and chunks of hours to family time – allowing for more flexible management of both work and home responsibilities.
- A person may live some distance from the office and prefer to keep stress levels low by going to the gym in the morning and staying late in the office. That way they can get exercise in while avoiding peak hour traffic both ways.
- Another may prefer to shoehorn 5 days worth of hours into 4 days, so they can spend the remaining ‘work’ day on a hobby they love or improving their professional qualifications.
So, we do need to be very careful of imposing our own flexible workplace ideals onto others, as we may inadvertently cause higher levels of stress than we may realise.
A few things we learnt during Covid
- We are all a lot more proficient in our IT use since March 2020
- We have shifted our behaviour around how we use technology and how we communicate with others
- New office cultures and expectations of others communication via technology is going to continue to shift going forward, we need to be adaptable and open to this
- Remote and hybrid working will require different management and leadership skills for remote teams (or a mixed office-remote team approach), greater challenges in new staff inductions and new ways to encourage team building over time.
- Businesses may need to do more to help employees separate out work and home spaces – to ensure all employees have enough mental, emotional and physical recovery time from work and tech-based work tethering.
One thing remote workers will need to become better at is finding the right balance between when to engage with work activities and when to engage with home activities outside of ‘normal’ office hours.
Here are a few tips on some strategies you can use to help keep home and work life separate if you work from home.