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Once Covid-19 is over, will you consider working from home?

A recent survey found that a majority of UK workers are planning to return to the office. However, since the coronavirus lock down, remote working has grown in popularity. Is working from home the future – your future?

The survey, conducted by the British Council for Offices (BCO), asked 2000 people how they are planning to spend their working hours during the next six months. 46% of respondents said they are planning to split their time between working from home and working from the office, while 30% said they are preparing to return to the office for a full, five day working week. Just 15% of respondents said they are planning to only work from home.

The BCO survey was conducted just before the UK government reintroduced regulations to prevent the spread of Covid-19, including advising people to work from home if possible. However, finding that 76% of respondents have a plan to spend at least some of their time in the office suggests that when the pandemic is over, working in an office environment is likely to remain important.

Discussing the results of the survey, Richard Kauntze, Chief Executive of the British Council for Offices, said that “Our way of working is changing, and a new, mixed working approach is becoming popular. This does not mean the end of the office. The office is valuable for career development, which relies on forming networks and the informal lessons that come from watching senior colleagues operate … The coming months and years are an opportunity to reimagine the office and its purpose. It is time for Britain to return to the office, but doing so doesn’t mean a return to how we used to work. Let’s embrace the change.”

Embracing the change would mean a partial return to the office, combined with extended time spent working from home. Advocates of this approach highlight the combination as the best of both worlds, offering valuable in-office experiences alongside the relaxation and flexibility associated with home working.

Responding to the BCO’s survey, Matt Flood, Head of Occupier Markets at Landsec, explained that “The pandemic has triggered a huge acceleration in the trends which were already underway such as a greater emphasis on flexibility, wellbeing and sustainability. The future of work will be around choice, where the office forms part of a wider ecosystem of physical and digital spaces”.

Some businesses have found the move to a remote environment fairly straight forward. However, for others, the speed of the move towards remote, digital spaces has proven more difficult. Across the world, multiple studies have highlighted problems with remote working, including issues relating to cybersecurity, productivity and digital fatigue.

The question of working remotely or in the office is even more complex for entrepreneurs and those who run their own business. It isn’t just a question of working from home instead of the office. Remote working asks if the very essence of business – meetings, negotiations, even contract arrangements – are better handled through remote methods, rather than in person. Many will find it difficult to no longer work personally with clients, business partners and suppliers. Can the nuances and interpersonal skills associated with business be replicated in a virtual, remote environment?

In terms of your future, the subject is very much up for discussion. 85% of Oxford Business College students said they rather be working from home than the classroom. The implications of this discussion for students and business professionals could be huge.

Whilst trends have headed towards remote working, you need to ask if your experiences, both in education and in work, will be better served in a digital or physical environment? It’s quite a personal question, and one without a clear answer. For some, working remotely could answer a lot of concerns. For others, working from the office or classroom remains essential.

In truth, the future of employment hangs in the balance. Some industries will thrive in a remote, home-based working environment. Others will struggle. You need to ask yourself these important questions too. How do you work best, how will your industry work best, and which option will find you success? The answer to these questions will help to decide your future.