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Working from home – Where are we now?

8 facts about working from home in the UK
Working from home is not a new phenomenon. The number of people working from home in the UK has grown year on year. In 2019, 30 percent of employees reported some working from home.

However, the government's call in March to work from home as much as possible led to millions of employees working (completely) from home from one day to the next. For some a new phenomenon, for others a (significant) intensification of their home working. What stands out? 
1. Sit, sit, sit…

Physical working conditions 

There is a significant increase in the number of hours of screen work. Whereas in 2019 69.3% were still using computer screens for more than 6 hours a day, by mid-2020 this had risen to 87.3%1. Not only during working hours, but also during leisure time. 
  • Sitting during work - 6.55 hours 2019 > 7.10 hours 2020 
  • Sitting during leisure time - 3.33 hours 2019 > 4.20 hours 2020 
This means that there is an increase in sitting from 9.88 hours per day to 11.30 hours. Making repetitive movements is also clearly increasing. At the time of measurement, more than 36% of home-based workers made regular repetitive movements, while at the end of 2019 this was only the case for 19%. 
2. Longer, shorter, the same
Working hours 
Data from the Office for National Statistics2 shows the below impact on working hours when employees work from home. 
• 30.3% of employees report working longer hours when working from home 
• 34.4% of employees reporting working fewer hours when working from home 
• 35.3% of employees report no change to their working hours when working from home 
 
We can conclude that in the UK there is an equal division between those who work longer, those who work shorter and those who work the same number of hours. In other countries around us we see that they mainly work longer hours. 
3. Output and no-nonsense
Productivity and efficiency 
About 46% indicated that they were more productive at home and were able to do more work. There are no clear outliers or peculiarities here according to sector or personal characteristic. 

For a large group of home workers, efficiency has also increased considerably in comparison to the old situation. No fewer than 48.22% indicate that they are more efficient at the home workplace than in the office. This is also due to the fact that there are fewer useless consultations; face-to-face meetings do not have the same degree of efficiency that video calls do. Employees indicate that they spend 51.05% less time on these useless consultations. 
4. Time to create
Creativity 
Besides productivity and efficiency, the creative part of the brain is also switched on more often among home workers. 1 out of 4 employees indicates to have been more creative during the period working at home than normal (26.79%). 
5. Remote meetings, remote life
More positive experiences with remote meetings  
We do everything remotely. Christmas dinner with family, celebrating birthdays, meetings with colleagues, Friday afternoon drinks. Everything is done remotely.  
Compared to the beginning of the Ccovid-19, people have become slightly more positive about teleconferencing. In particular, an increase can be seen in the proportion of people who consider remote conferencing just as productive as face-to-face meetings (43% previously, now 55%) and who consider remote conferencing suitable for most appointments (54% previously, now 67%). 

A very large majority (around 80%) expects to continue remote conferencing more often as long as there are still Ccovid-19 in place. The proportion that expects to meet more often at a distance after the COVID-19 crisis has increased since the start of the covid-19 crisis, from around 36% to around 60%. 
6. A good place to work
Home office 
The COVID-19 measures, including keeping one's distance, washing one's hands and the provision and use of protective equipment, are less important for home workers during work. On the other hand, a good workplace is even more important for home workers: a good desk, a good office chair and good equipment. This certainly does not appear to be well facilitated in all cases. It is also important to decide whether to work at home permanently for the time being or whether there are prospects of returning to the office. 

The majority of home workers have a desk (67%), a separate monitor (63%) and/or a separate standard mouse (86%). Slightly less than half of the homeworkers have a well-adjustable chair. 

Employees who are now forced to (partly) work from home generally have fewer resources than people who already work from home completely. Only 33 percent5 of the homeworkers have all the necessary tools. For the most part, these items were already at home before the COVID-19 crisis. The mouse and the monitor were most often provided by the employer, and the chair and desk were relatively often purchased by the workers themselves.  

More than 40 per cent of homeworkers indicate that they need additional resources in order to set up the home office properly. This is about the necessary basic items and not about ergonomic tools.  

7. More illness
Absenteeism  
The absenteeism rates in this period are dominated by the COVID-19 virius with flu / cold symptoms (24.5%) and headache (10.6%). In addition, psychological complaints, stress or burnout (12.6%) make the largest contribution to the absenteeism figures among employees. Fatigue and concentration problems (8%) come in a good third place. 

It is expected that physical complaints will increase due to the growth in working hours, the decrease in natural breaks and the increase in sitting compared to exercise. 40.87% indicates that they have more problems with physical complaints (shoulders, neck, arm back) since working from home. 
8. Being a parent, partner, friend, employee in only one environment
Work-life balance 
To keep psychological complaints in check, it is important to look at the work-life balance. Especially when there are no clear boundaries between the workplace and the private environment. Working where the children are playing or playing with the children where your workplace is leads to blurring in the mental and physical living environment. For example, 45.01% indicate that there is no proper separation between work and private life. There must be an opportunity to switch off when the day is over and to fully focus on the private environment. 
Looking back: a year of COVID-19
What have we achieved in our working conditions?  
As far as working conditions are concerned, the changes in the world of work can be divided into four phases, which for many have begun with the first lockdown in 2020. In the UK, we are now entering the third phase, which relates to ergonomic equipment when working from home. 
  1. First our technological systems had to be put in order to make it possible to work from home at all; 
  2. Employees then had to find or create a suitable place at home to be able to work from home in peace (if that was possible at all); 
  3. Now we must ensure that we can work from home in a healthy way, without all the mental and physical problems that it entails; 
  4. It is still unknown when this phase will begin, but a future model will have to be considered that takes into account both the advantages and disadvantages of working from home. What is the ideal mix of home and office? 
The initial phase also shows that there is a shift in the thinking of companies and managers. Many jobs that were considered unsuitable for working from home before the pandemic can now be done from home. The increased desire of employees to be able to use mobile working from home or the home office in the future has also increased as a result of the changes in the world of work described above.  



However, working from home has changed the physical and psychological working conditions considerably. Employees sit more and the lack of appropriate tools in the home office leads to physical complaints. Attention should also be paid to the fact that many employers expect employees to be able to concentrate better when working at home, although this is not self-evident (e.g. if there is a lack of space or if there are children at home). There are also challenges for employees and employers when it comes to collaborating creatively on projects, as this is seen by many as more difficult.  

This new mental and physical reality of working from home increases the need for appropriate support for employees by employers.  In addition to these challenges, there are also many positive aspects to working from home, both for employees and employers. Research shows that productivity, time savings and job satisfaction can increase when people have the opportunity to work at home without being subjected to greater stress. Ideally, this will lead to more motivated employees, more productive work and thus more profit.  

Therefore, it is now important to ensure that employees can work at home in a healthy and productive manner without developing the mental and physical problems that can result. This challenge can be solved through regular breaks and coaching, and by relieving our bodies with ergonomic tools. 
Sources
  1. https://wp.monitorarbeid.tno.nl/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/TNO_Rapport_NEA-Covid.pdf
  2. https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/bulletins/coronavirusandhomeworkingintheuk/april2020#homeworking-by-occupation
  3. https://employeebenefits.co.uk/67-uk-work-effectively-home/#:~:text=Two-fifths (42%) have,family life easier to balance.
  4. https://www.cnv.nl/actueel/nieuws/nieuwsdetail/cnv-onderzoek-thuiswerker-vaker-last-van-fysieke-klachten/
  5. https://wp.monitorarbeid.tno.nl/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/TNO_Rapport_NEA-Covid.pdf



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