Home working will be a permanent feature in 2022 but it’s not helping the work/life balance

BYREBECCA TOMES
DECEMBER 31, 2021
(IFA Magazine)

 

COVID has made a massive change to the way Brits work and even before the reintroduction of work from home advice, this December more than half of employees were expecting hybrid working to be a permanent fixture going into 2022. New research has uncovered how the new normal impacts people’s lives and finances:

  • 55% of people currently working from home said their employer was looking to make hybrid working a permanent option in 2022
  • 45% of people working from home said they routinely worked more hours
  • 22% of people working from home fear it reduces their chances of promotion
  • 51% of parents working at least partly from home had been able to stop paying for some or all childcare

*Survey of 2,000 UK adults carried out by Opinium for AJ Bell between 26-30th November 2021

Danni Hewson, AJ Bell financial analyst, comments:

“After years of discussions about remote and flexible working, Covid lockdowns forced UK plc to make the shift.  Fears that employees would be less productive proved unfounded and even as the government was urging businesses to pull people back into offices in the autumn, discussions were underway about making the change a permanent one. More than half of those surveyed (55%) said their employer was considering making hybrid the new normal going into 2022.   

“Of course, offices aren’t the only place of work and before concern about the spread of Omicron pushed the government to implement its “Plan B” almost half of UK workers said they’d returned to their place of work full time, bringing life back to our town and city centres and providing much needed income to businesses that rely on office trade. But those businesses are going to have to adapt to the new normal as even before the current advice 52% of workers were skipping the office in favour of home working at least one day a week with the average number of days worked from home standing at 4.2 days. 

“The shift has had a marked effected on our town and city centres. From cafes, bars and restaurants to gyms, hairdressers and dry cleaners, businesses were already having to think creatively about their future even before the latest “not lockdown” ate away at consumer confidence and slashed Christmas business. Loyalty schemes are making a comeback, though clearly in the case of Pret the idea hasn’t quite worked out for the consumer. Big chains have been focussing their expansion plans on suburban areas, places where home workers live, and lunchtime opportunities are becoming increasingly compelling. Investors have been watching these sectors closely over the last few months and between “Freedom Day” in July and the discovery of the first case of Omicron only one “leisure” stock on the FTSE 350 has seen its share price rise and Intercontinental Hotels Group isn’t exactly representative. Whitbread has achieved zero growth, Mitchells and Butlers is down more than 6% and Wetherspoons has drifted almost 15%. Shared workspace provider IWG has also struggled in this period, its share price is down nearly 5% and no-frills fitness business Gym Group is down almost 7%. Government help will be welcome but there is a much bigger question to answer down the tracks.

“Whilst skipping the office was already taking cash out the tills of beleaguered businesses it is giving a nice savings boost to many consumers. A quarter of those working from home said they’d saved money but there is a price to pay. Whilst the rose tinted ideal would allow people to stick on a wash in between zoom calls or whip up the evening meal, many people are actually finding their work life balance is adversely affected. There’s no delineation between work time and home time and almost half (45%) of people said they work more hours than they do when they are at the office. Whilst the average clocks up an extra 3 hours, a tenth of people said they worked 15 or more hours extra every week.

“Home workers also worried about how the new regime would affect their prospects of promotion; a fifth (22%) suspected it would adversely affect their prospects. Slightly more men (22%) than women (21%) were concerned about their future career path if they continued to be absent from the office.  But 14% felt that the new regime would actually improve their chances of moving up at work.  It all depends on whether everyone is working in the same way. People who spend more time in the office might well be able to grab the best jobs simply because they catch a conversation across the half empty office.

“And working from home has been both blessing and curse for mums. The onus of childcare is still disproportionately falling to women among home workers, with 36% of women with children under 16 reporting they do most of the childcare during work hours, compared to only 19% of men who are working from home. For better or worse home working is allowing 51% of home working parents to stop using paid for childcare, at least partially. That’s something many childcare providers will have to carefully consider when they set their rates for the new financial year.”

 

 

 

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