Lord Alan Sugar and Netflix chairman Reed Hastings might not like it much but nearly three-fifths (58%) of UK workers insist they have been more productive as a result of working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, and nearly a third of their bosses agree.
So says a new survey commissioned by TalkTalk, which shows that Internet traffic on the provider’s network also remains above normal, with usage rising by nearly two-fifths (39%) since August 2019, although exactly what users are doing online is not revealed.
Even, the study shows usage has not declined in the months since lockdown ended, suggesting a more permanent shift in working behaviour has taken place. In fact, over half (52%) of all workers never expect to return to the office full time.
The data also found that at least one in six customers doubled their upload usage during lockdown, linked with sending files via email or video conferencing.
In April, statistics released by the Office for National Statistics showed 49.2% of adults in employment were working from home, and although there are no official figures for the marketing industry, most companies, whether clients, agencies or suppliers, still have the majority of staff working from home for at least part of the week.
The WFH phenomenon has raised the hackles of some business leaders, however, with Lord Alan Sugar one of the most critical. Last week, he accused home workers of being “complacent”, adding: “My businesses have all come back. I think there’s a fine line of fearful and enjoying it, to be honest with you. It’s as simple as that. What are they fearful of?”.
But the Amstrad founder was later accused of having vested interests in a mass return to the office after he admitted his City property venture Amsprop had been badly hit by workers staying at home.
Meanwhile, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Netflix chairman Reed Hastings has been equally scathing, claiming he did not see any benefits to WFH.
He said Netflix staff would not be expected to return to the office until the majority had been vaccinated against Covid-19, and even then they would probably continue to work from home one day a week, but he added: “Not being able to get together in person, particularly internationally, is a pure negative.”
Not all bosses are on such a downer, however, with the TalkTalk study revealing that nearly a third (30%) of company bosses believe working remotely has made their teams more productive.
Some 40% of business said they had provided financial support towards employees’ phone or broadband bills and the same number said that they had given £100-£200 to improve the home working environment for staff.
Bosses also expect to invest in ways to boost employee productivity while working from home, with 40% identifying digital skills and training as a target area.
In other findings, two-fifths (40%) of consumers say they had watched online educational content during the pandemic; 16% have enrolled in a full online educational course and a quarter (24%) have started to learn a language. One in 10 said they started an online “side hustle” during lockdown as a way to generate extra income.
TalkTalk CEO Tristia Harrison said: “Lockdown Britain has seen a boost in skills and productivity for home workers, with unexpected lessons for how we emerge from the pandemic. As people have been working from home, they’ve also been learning: from new languages, to cooking, to IT skills. With flexible working we’re becoming so much more productive it seems that Britain is now getting five days’ work done in four, which is encouraging as we build back from the crisis.”
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