Businesses in Wales are gaining the equivalent of an extra 19 working days a year from employees putting in longer shifts when they work from home, according to new research from Atlas Cloud.
Indications that a new “work from home order” could be implemented in the next two weeks to curb the rising rate of Coronavirus infections would reverse the trend of employees beginning to return to workplaces, meaning that businesses and staff will continue to benefit from the positives of working from home.
The research reveals that by working from home during the Coronavirus pandemic, instead of commuting to an office, employees in Wales are saving an average of 73 minutes per day – 11 minutes less than the UK average, and the second-shortest average commute time in the UK.
Office workers say they are splitting this additional time between work and play by spending an average of 33 minutes extra on work per day and also gaining an additional 40 minutes per day leisure time.
As the average month comprises 21 working days, businesses would on average gain almost an entire month’s worth of additional work per employee if home working was to be extended for a year.
Meanwhile, by working from home, employees would gain back the equivalent of 22 days of annual leave – almost doubling the minimum amount of annual leave (not counting bank holidays) staff are legally entitled to each year.
Over nine in ten people in Wales (94%) say they want the ability to work at least a day a week from home.
However, crucially the survey commissioned by the IT managed service provider Atlas Cloud shows that workers do not want to see the death of their office, pointing to a future of hybrid work.
More than two thirds (69%) of office workers in Wales now want a return to the office in some form, although only 6% want to work from the office full-time. Under a third (31%) say they want to work from home full-time.
Almost two-thirds (63%) said that they would prefer hybrid-working – a blend of home, office, and remote work – after the pandemic.
The survey results show Welsh office workers back The Welsh Government’s plan to “develop a hybrid workplace model”, with a post-pandemic target of 30 percent of the workforce working from home.
This week the Welsh Government became the first in the UK to announce plans to embrace a hybrid workplace model that would allow staff to work either in the office, at home, or in a hub location. The aim is to enable 30% or more of workers to work remotely, helping to reduce congestion and pollution, and improve work-life balance for employees and employers.
In announcing the hybrid workplace model, Lee Waters, Wales’ deputy minister for economy and transport, said: “The UK Government instruction for everyone to go back to the office is not one we are repeating in Wales. We have an opportunity to make Wales a country where working more flexibly is integral to how our economy functions, embedding a workplace culture that values and supports remote working.”
Almost six months on from the start of Wales’ lockdown, more than a fifth of employees (24%) said the lack of social interaction they experienced while working from home had affected their mental health.
By implementing flexible, hybrid working policies (a mixture of office-based and remote working), businesses gain from additional working hours and provide employees with opportunities for much-needed social interaction.
The results indicate that for every day of homeworking they offer, Welsh businesses can gain almost four additional working days a year per employee – up to a total of 19 days if they work from home full-time.
Meanwhile, employees also benefit from additional leisure time.
Almost half of respondents (47%) said they had used their additional leisure time to catch up on sleep, with 50% saying they had used it to spend more time with family, and 41% using it to do more exercise.
However, employees currently face a huge amount of uncertainty about the future of their workplace.
Currently around a third of Welsh office workers (34%) say their employer has confirmed where they will work long-term.
More than a third of Welsh workers expect that they will not be able to enjoy the benefits of hybrid-working – or are unsure of what will happen – when the pandemic is over.
The provision of remote working is also becoming increasingly important for organisations looking to recruit top talent.
The ability to work remotely is also now a key consideration for almost half (45%) of job-seekers in Wales, a rise of almost 50% since the lockdown, when it was judged to be important by 31%.
This shift in the priorities of the Welsh workforce means that many companies now have to re-think their office-centric approach to work. Of those that didn’t work from home prior to lockdown, 60% said this was due to restrictive company policies.
Almost nine in ten Welsh office workers (89%) said the coronavirus crisis has proven that they can work effectively from home.
The increasing proportion of people in Wales who say they can now work effectively from home is being influenced by companies that invested in digital transformation during the pandemic. Over half of employees (56%) said their companies invested in new or updated technology to help enable digital transformation since the start of lockdown.
Pete Watson, CEO of Atlas Cloud, said:
“The pandemic has transformed the way we think about the workplace, but it is by no means the death of the traditional office – it is the birth of hybrid-working.
“It is incredibly heartening to see the Welsh Government leading the UK on this issue and putting in place pioneering plans to develop a hybrid workplace model, giving staff the flexibility to work from the office, home, or remotely from another location. This is a really encouraging step towards a better future for employees and businesses.
“Working from home can be a win-win for employers and employees as the lack of commuting gives people more time to spend working and more leisure time.
“However, working only from home is isolating for the majority of people, and unsustainable in the long-term. People miss face-to-face social interaction and for a significant number of people it is affecting their mental health.
“This research clearly demonstrates that the majority of people want to return to the office in some capacity, but more often than not this is to pursue a hybrid working model where they can work more flexibly.
“Companies need to think about how to achieve this, particularly when it comes to implementing digital transformation, if they want to avoid being left behind as the country moves into this new phase of hybrid working.
“Instead of enforcing strict policies to work from home or from the office, employers need to build agility and flexibility into their policies, enabling hybrid-working in order to boost efficiency, productivity, and employee satisfaction, as well as attracting and retaining the best talent.
“One of the few bright spots of the coronavirus is that it has shown we can build a better way of working which will help to create better businesses, a better society and ultimately better lives for ourselves, our colleagues and our families. It feels like the Welsh Government has understood this more than any other. We now have a golden opportunity to embrace flexible and agile hybrid-working to create a better work-life balance for millions of people.”