A recent report from the BBC states that the government is overlooking a policy which will allow workers to request flexible working from their first day at work. The proposal, which is being under review by the Department for Business, will be formally launched as a consultation this week. Working from home has become incredibly popular during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the ONS reporting that over 46% of people employed have worked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The financial sector has seen 25% of its employees want to return to working from home, and with 1000’s of JP Morgans and HSBC staff already working at home, many individuals have likely become accustomed to this style of work. And working from home does have its benefits to both workers, the firm, as well as the government potentially. First of all, workers benefit as a flexible working life can potentially make workers feel more relaxed as working from home, thus improving staff mental health and wellbeing as blurring home life with work-life means staff do not have to be constantly rushed by their bosses. At the same time, this blur between home life and working life has actually proved to make workers more productive in some cases as staff working from home are much more likely to continue working past office hours to fully complete any assignments they have been given for that day. This is a benefit for the worker as being more productive may earn them promotions, thus further improving their wellbeing and satisfaction as they succeed in their chosen career paths. Furthermore, the business benefits from this as more productive workers decrease the firm's variable costs, thus potentially improving profitability. Working from home also reduces the fixed costs for firms. One survey asked the CEO’s of the Fortune 500 companies and uncovered that over 70% stated that they believed office spaces will need to be reduced.
This means that firms using these spaces can begin to cut down on their fixed costs as once their leases end, rather than renting an entire office, they may only need a few floors. And how does the government benefit from all of this? Well, the previously mentioned mental wellbeing benefits to workers can decrease the pressure on the NHS, which is already stretched thin considering the UK has a shortage of 43,000 nurses. At the same time, firms which can reduce their costs through renting less office spaces can retain more profits, thus enabling them to have more funding at their disposal for innovating and expanding, all of which promote economic growth and development. However, there is of course the issue of the high-street, which will have to be somehow adapted in future if office spaces and footfall levels continue to fall in these areas. At the same time, it must be recognised that working from home may not be beneficial for all as workers and employees likely need to be able to socialise with their co-workers in person to some capacity. However, although this new legislation will make it easier for workers to work flexible working patterns, it does not mean they will be mandated or able to work from home all the time without a valid reason.
Written by Hubert Kucharski