Home working, office or hybrid? Experts offer their predictions on the future of work

A leading psychologist has said employers need to be aware of the struggles facing home workers - as a leaked document reveals that home working is likely to continue

Working from home is expected to continue beyond Step 4 of Boris Johnson’s roadmap, a report suggests.

A leaked Whitehall document recommends that the government should not actively tell people to go back to the workplace after 19 July.

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Home working comes with its own challenges and employers need to do more to support staff, according to the experts (Photo: Shutterstock)

Those who packed up their belongings ahead of the first national lockdown in March 2020 have already been working from their dining rooms, bedrooms and makeshift desks for more than 16 months.

The paper draws up three potential options on work-from-home messaging.

The government could either tell the public to go back to work, remain neutral, or encourage people to work from home, Politico reports.

Claims suggest that the government will choose to back a ‘hybrid approach’ with a mix of working from home and heading into the place of work - which 85% of home workers would favour, according to a survey from the Office for National Statistics.

Rachel Suff and professor Gail Kinman

Professor Gail Kinman, a fellow of the British Psychological Society, said employers need to assess the “psychosocial risks” of working from home.

They include professional support from managers, informal get-togethers with colleagues, comfy work environments and suitable working hours for parental and caring responsibilities.

Three days from home, two in the office?

She told NationalWorld: “As time has gone on some people have actually continued to struggle, some people have found that it’s become easier for them and they are very happy to work from home and others are absolutely desperately trying to get back into the office.

“It’s really difficult to make decisions for everybody - people have different preferences and different needs.

“People in specific groups seem to be struggling more, like women with small children, people who live alone and new starters who have not had the chance to form social relationships with the people they are working with.”

She said working from home three days a week in the future might allow for concentrated working while a further two days in the office provides social support.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed the lockdown delay in an announcement on Monday (14 June), stating that the final stage of the lockdown roadmap will be pushed back by up to four weeks.

The setback comes due to concerns over the rapidly spreading Delta variant, first identified in India, which now accounts for more than 96 per cent of new Covid-19 cases.

Rachel Suff, senior policy advisor at Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said working from home is not the solution for everyone’s wellbeing.

‘It’s really important that people have boundaries’

She told NationalWorld employers' CIPD surveys have shown the number one concern or challenge is around their staff’s wellbeing.

She said it’s a difficult balancing act for the government, public health and employers at the moment to keep people safe.

“What do [employers] do to best support people who are going to be continually working from home 100% of the time? That’s the crucial question.

“It really does mean being very aware of the employer's legal duty of care over health and safety extending into the home and really making sure you’re assessing the risks to people’s physical and psychological health - and factors that could include potential for stress.

“We have found that presenteenism is just as high at home, so people working when they are sick is just as high or even higher than people working in a physical workplace.

“I think organisations need to do more - they haven’t been seen to do enough to help manage the blurriness of the boundary between work and home. It’s really important that people have boundaries.”

For some, it’s brought a lot of benefits in terms of less commuting, saving money and helping to balance working, home and caring responsibilities better.

But others are faced with loneliness, isolation and ambiguity in their work-life balance.

Suff said employers need to be assessing the potential risks to people’s physical and psychological health.

“It’s very easy to switch on your laptop and answer emails out of hours but organisations have got to be really proactive in encouraging people to have a healthy routine,” she added.

Suff also added that it’s just as important for colleagues to be connected socially while line managers should be able to spot warning signs if colleagues need help.

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