Remote working makes perfect sense but comes at a price.

A year ago, when the Coronavirus first began to impact our lives, most businesses had little difficulty in accepting that it would be advisable for some staff to work from home. But that was before people began to keel over at an alarming rate and when such measures shifted from being a matter of choice to compulsory by law.

Having endured a full cycle of Britain’s seasons, we can now draw on experience to help us make operational adjustments going forward. With the miracle of vaccination giving us all hope for the future, businesses will nevertheless have to decide soon whether encouraging staff to work permanently from home would be a good idea. Opinions are divided. In some respects, new communications technologies like Zoom make the decision more difficult because, on a practical level, they work so well. However, the impact this has on people and their welfare is quite another matter.

Whilst accepting that the mental and physical health of the workforce takes priority over efficiency, the problem is that individuals are not the same; what works for some does not necessarily work for others. It’s complicated.

A survey of over 4,000 UK office workers conducted by Microsoft and YouGov found that 56% were happier working from home. But nearly one third (30%) pointed out they were not only putting in longer hours, but that they took fewer breaks (52%) and felt they had to be available at all hours (53%). A survey by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) revealed a similar picture, with 56% saying they found it harder at home to switch off from work and 38% reporting that this was disturbing their sleep pattern. Only a third (34%) of the 700 respondents said that their employer had offered them support with their mental health.

The RSPH survey also found that almost half (46%) had been taking less exercise while 39% had developed musculoskeletal problems. Women were found to be more likely than men to feel isolated at home (58% and 39% respectively). Make what you like of all the statistics – there is no shortage of data – but what is clear is that home working, for all its advantages, comes at a price.

As a manufacturer, UnitBirwelco has a limited number of people working from home. But we maintain that an office environment is important to us to promote work relationships, solve problems and encourage creativity. But we will not compromise on safety. Our motto remains ‘work safe, stay safe’.