Moving on from the pandemic offers organisations the opportunity to redefine the way people work and to re-imagine the purpose of the office, according to a new report.
The Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) study said that as organisations look towards the future beyond Covid-19, they should consider the three ‘Hs’ of working – from home, a nearby hub or the head office.
Many people became homeworkers “virtually overnight” when the country went into lockdown on March 23 last year and the report said that the workforce of the future will want to make informed choices about where and how they work.
Analysis of a sample of workers from public sector organisations found that 88% of the 4961 respondents wanted to work at least one day a week from home, with 24% happy to continue to work full-time from home.
One in 10 (10%) said they preferred not to work from home while 2% did not specify.
Shona Adam, SFT’s associate director of workplace change and co-author of the report, said: “This exciting future is about allowing both employer and employee to make an informed choice of where they want to work from, on any given day, that is going to best achieve the outcomes that need to be delivered by both the employee and the organisation.
“As a result of the pandemic, we know that people have benefited from the lack of the daily commute and that the majority of office-based roles can be done remotely.
“However, some people are struggling with mental health and isolation problems.
“Each organisation will have to assess the preferences of their workforce as well as explore the impacts, and weigh up the longer-term benefits and risks.”
The report found that while some people enjoy working from home, for others doing so for prolonged periods is having an impact on their mental health and, in certain cases, causing social isolation.
It outlines how employees could continue to go to the head office to socialise, integrate with colleagues, and co-operate on ideas and strategy.
The report also suggests that neutral “hub” locations, such as a cafe or a digitally connected public library, could also become part of the flexible working solution, allowing face-to-face meetings or research to be undertaken away from home.
Ms Adam said the culture of “presenteeism”, where employers and managers expected to see their colleagues sitting in the office, is being swept away.
She said: “What the pandemic has demonstrated is that we have gone from the head office or HQ, to hundreds and thousands of offices in homes. We have a dispersed workforce working on the basis of trust to get the job done.”
She added: “Collectively, across both public and private sectors, we need to use the experience we’ve had during the pandemic in a positive way, to dispel presenteeism and consign it to the past.
“Workers can be located anywhere provided they undertake the activities they are paid to do. This is a tremendous opportunity to explore a distributed network for delivering outcomes.”
SFT was established by the Scottish Government in 2008 as a centre of infrastructure expertise, providing additional skills, resources and knowledge to public sector organisations.