How the coronavirus lockdown could permanently change people's working habits

The world of work has seen dramatic changes in the past 100 days due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many of which are expected to become permanent.

Wednesday, 1st July 2020, 8:39 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st July 2020, 8:40 am

Millions have switched from commuting to offices to working from home, making flexible arrangements or switching to part-time.

And many workers have enjoyed the benefits of swapping an office for their front room, giving an immediate boost to their work-life balance.

Surveys from the past three months have shown the popularity of flexible, home-working, especially among parents – a trend experts believe is now embedded in the UK's working culture.

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Six-year-old Leo (R) and his three-year old brother Espen (C) complete homeschooling activities suggested by the online learning website of their infant school, as his mother Moira, an employee of a regional council, works from home during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

The changes could help tackle the UK's long-hours culture, reduce sickness absence and improve productivity – problems which have dogged industry for decades.

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A new survey of 1,500 working parents by childcare provider Bright Horizons showed that half are set to demand flexible work in the future, with around one in eight wanting to go back to pre-pandemic working.

Jennifer Liston-Smith, of Bright Horizons, said: "This could be a pivotal moment in determining how jobs work in future, but companies and organisations need to seize the moment by ensuring that jobs are as flexible and human-sized as possible in future.

"They and their employees have discovered that it's possible to work well remotely. The challenge now is to lock in those gains while also combating the 'always-on' culture and ensuring staff have healthy family lives too."

Confederation of British Industry deputy director-general Josh Hardie added: “Lockdown has rapidly accelerated how and where many people work and communicate.

“Many businesses are already looking at what lessons they can learn from this crisis – including widespread remote working – to the benefit of their staff and operations.”

Meanwhile, many remain unable to work from home.

Andy McDonald, shadow secretary of state for employment rights and protections, has called for any further changes to work to be made ‘with the agreement’ of employees.

He added: “said: "Covid-19 has brought about drastic changes to the world of work.

"Many workers have enjoyed the benefits of working from home, while for others the pandemic has exacerbated low pay, job insecurity and poor rights and protections at work.”

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