With news of a vaccine, we’re all looking forward to 2021 but how many of the changes that we’ve made this year will remain as the way we do things?

In almost every sector, people have had to rapidly adapt to remote working, adopting a range of collaboration tools along the way for the workplace – tools which many of us needed to learn how to use for the first time this year. According to a recent in-depth study conducted jointly by the University of Birmingham and the University of Kent, managers intend to actively encourage homeworking post-pandemic. The reason? 59% of managers surveyed said that working from home increases productivity.

However, according to GetApp, the comparative resource for online software, opinions among the workforce are varied and wide-ranging.

To look in to how the landscape has changed and what the forecasts, GetApp asked over 400 UK employees about their experiences of hybrid and remote working since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Covering everything from work preferences to perceptions of their personal performance, the results highlight insights that could help employers to better support to their remote workforce.

Going remote could be a decision you make in 2021

The survey reveals that over half of people (53%) now work remotely on a fulltime basis since the start of the pandemic. Not only are most of us working from home today, but the results suggest that the remote working trend is here to stay post-COVID; asked how they would prefer to work after the end of the pandemic, the majority of respondents confirmed they would like to work remotely on at least a weekly basis.

When breaking down the age demographics, GetApp found that older workers are most keen to embrace fulltime remote work. 60% of respondents aged over 56 and over would prefer to work this way in future.

With remote and hybrid working practices being more accepted by employers, they’re starting to be more flexible to where their employees are stationed. Just over half (51%) of GetApp’s sample said they would consider moving further away from the office. This could have benefits for employers, widening the potential talent tool when making new hires.

Balancing work and life is still a challenge  

Despite a widespread acceptance of remote working, there is one issue that remains a challenge for staff – maintaining boundaries between home life and the world of work. When asked if they had managed to set healthy work/life boundaries for themselves, almost a third (32%) had failed to do so or had only minimally established boundaries:

  • 9% of respondents had set no boundaries
  • 23% had minimally established boundaries
  • 43% moderately established boundaries
  • 25% had completely established boundaries.

Similarly, 34% of those surveyed have experienced difficulties establishing work/life boundaries with family or housemates, 28% with their direct manager, and 25% with their team.

This struggle to set and maintain boundaries may be partly responsible for another trend revealed by the survey: Most employees are feeling pressured to work longer hours than they would if still office based.

Over-working is the biggest issue

Respondents confirmed a range of issues were presenting them with challenges on a regular basis. The most prominent challenges include:

  • Working more hours than standard (17%)
  • Getting work calls before and/or after work hours (16%)
  • Family members or housemates not respecting time and/or work space (16%)
  • Use of personal devices (laptop/phone) for work functions (15%)
  • The pressure to answer emails on weekends (14%)
  • Quick-turnaround assignments that require after hours or weekend work (13%)
  • Difficulty keeping secure information private due to sharing of space with family/housemates (5%)

Finding ways to address these issues for employees would go a long way to addressing the issue of work-life balance.

Younger employees require greater training support  

Businesses may also need to look at providing training to help employees adapt to the new ways of working and better operate remote work software. Over a third (34%) expressed that this kind of training would help them better adapt to working out of the office.

The desire for training was especially pronounced among younger employees.

Communications is an important area to focus on when designing training programmes for remote working. One in five (20%) employees expressed dissatisfaction with team communications while working remotely. Likewise, a similar number (22%) were dissatisfied with the quality of communication they had received from their managers.

Overall, it seems like remote working is here to stay for no reason other than the flexibility works for both employees and employers. One finds they have more time to spend and places to live and the other benefits from happier, more productive staff. The only questions that remain are whether we can crack the code to the acceleration to burnout when working from home.

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.