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New Statistics Shed Light on the Ups and Downs of Working from Home in the UK

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Called the greatest work from home experiment in the world, covid-19 has brought millions of office workers back into their homes to conduct their work, including in the UK. And while there are many advantages to being able to just roll out of your bed and start working, a new survey shows there are a few disadvantages as experienced by UK workers as well.

The Number Of UK Workers Working From Home

It is now estimated that 4 out of 5 Brits are working from home, according to numbers released by Centre for Cities, a UK based think tank. Until conditions improve, the UK government is actually encouraging companies to let their employees stay home. This percent means that over 24 million Brits are now working from somewhere other than their office. 

Before the lockdowns hit, work from home numbers had been on the rise. Over 1.5 million Brits were already working from home before the pandemic hit. This is an increase from ten years ago when just under 885,000 Brits worked from home.

Picture of a computer
Image: Domenico Loia on Unsplash

New Survey Paints a Picture of Overall Employee Satisfaction Mixed with Some Grumble

In a new survey released by Finder.com, UK workers seem generally content – and even more productive – working from home. Details of the findings are summarized below.

Benefits To Working From Home

Distractions and lack of productivity have always been cited as reasons to keep workers in the office. However, WFH employees’ feedback is showing that employers do not need to worry about those potential complications after all.

As a matter of fact, employers are reporting a ? increase in the productivity of their workers during the pandemic. This aligns with the 65% of workers who report they are more productive at home versus the office. Workers cite the lack of distractions at home as the reason for the increase in their productivity.

In addition to the productivity benefits, there are the financial savings to the employees. Since employees do not have to commute or purchase food and drink during the day, they are able to save that money. UK workers have been saving on average £44 per week. 

In addition to money, workers are saving time by not commuting. The average daily commute time in the UK was 59 minutes. With a bulk of the population now working from home, that is almost five hours of their time each week that they have now reclaimed. 

Additional Work From Home Benefits

While much is made of the benefits to workers during the pandemic, there is another area that has seen benefits from the lockdowns, and that is impact on the environment.  Fewer cars and buses on the road has meant a drop in emissions released into the air. 

While no definitive stats are available yet for the UK, the estimate is expected to be in line with numbers released by China’s own assessment on the impact of the lockdowns on the environment. China showed a 25% drop in CO2 emissions in February, along with a 22% increase in good air quality days. 

Drawbacks To Working From Home

While there are many upside to working from home, the survey shows that there are still some major drawbacks.

The biggest downside has been loneliness. Over 30% of remote workers report struggling with feelings of loneliness. These feelings are strongest in those who are divorced/separated or those who live alone.

Another drawback to working from home is that some remote workers find themselves working more than when they were in the office. Employees working from home find themselves working longer hours, taking shorter breaks, or skipping breaks altogether. These shorter breaks and longer days are causing these workers lost income, as much as  £14.57 in daily wages. 22% of telecommuters find “turning work off” at the end of the day a challenge.

And finally, employees working from home are more susceptible to neck and back pain. In an interview with the NYTimes, Dr Erickson, a chiropractor, attributes this to the  increased use of laptops at home, among other issues. She recommends counteracting this by improving the ergonomics of your workspace at home.

Sectors Most Affected And Least Affected By the Lockdowns

While the pandemic has taken a toll on the economy, some areas have not felt the crunch like others. Supermarkets and pharmacies must continue to operate, even during the lockdowns for example.

Some businesses have even seen profits increase. Companies that only have a presence online have also continued to thrive during these times.

Still, many industries are hurting badly, with some of the top ones listed below:

  • Travel (cruise industry, hotels, airlines)
  • Retail
  • Manufacturing
  • Food service
  • Fitness clubs

It is possible that these industries can and will rebound. However, that is tied to the end of lockdowns and dramatically lower numbers of coronavirus infections, or the introduction of a vaccine.

Summary

Most Brits are enjoying the option to work from home. Some would like to keep it that way once restrictions are lifted. Brits who are working from home have noted a rise in their productivity rates. However, the downside to working from home has been an increase in loneliness and the inability to separate work time and home time.

 
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