Increased productivity as a result of working from home during lockdown could transform the way businesses and employees approach their working week, according to a new study released today (17 September).
The Lockdown Lessons report, commissioned by TalkTalk, revealed that more than half (58%) of workers in the UK said they had been more productive as a result of working from home, and their bosses agree. 30% of business leaders (directors, senior executives or owners) said working remotely had made their teams more productive, while over a third (35%) said they were working more collaboratively.
Lockdown has brought the importance of connectivity sharply into focus for many home workers, with over half (52%) of respondents saying the pandemic had made them realise the importance of the fast, reliable internet connection.
Another trend identified by the study is the increase in ‘bite-sized learning’ facilitated by connectivity. The report, undertaken by Working the Future has found that consumers are using online sources to learn new skills outside of their jobs, thanks to having additional hours in the day saved by working from home.
40% said they had watched online educational content during lockdown, while 16% had enrolled in a full online educational course. Almost a quarter (24%) have started to learn a language over lockdown, while a nearly a fifth (18%) worked on their IT & digital skills. Cooking (22%), baking (15%) and gardening (13%) were other popular areas of learning.
This time spent learning was not wasted. A third (32%) have developed a new skill, while 30% will seek out further online learning in the future. Nearly a fifth (18%) of 18-24 year olds said their career prospects had improved during lockdown.
Lockdown also appears to have nurtured an enterprising spirit, one in ten (10%) having started an online side hustle – a part-time role or project outside their primary job – as a way to generate extra income.
The report also revealed that fast, reliable broadband (51%) was ranked as the second most important commodity during lockdown, beating online shopping deliveries (37%) and a large living space (24%), ranking only behind having a garden (59%).
Internet usage during lockdown increased 40% year on year according to TalkTalk network data.
The study showed 81% of business leaders identified a fast, reliable broadband connection as a priority for effective home working. That’s double the number of business leaders who said a workstation (41%), such as a desk, was a priority for their employees.
Two out of five (40%) business leaders 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 their employees’ home working environment. A quarter (24%) of the respondents even said that they had invested in mental wellbeing apps, such as yoga subscriptions.
Yet there are some areas this year where businesses have also saved money. Business travel (62%) and company entertainment such as Christmas parties (45%) were identified by business leaders as areas to cut expenditure in the future, no doubt because of the relatively high risk of Covid-19 transmission among employees.
The business leaders are expecting to invest in ways to boost employee productivity while working from home, with 40% identifying digital skills and training and just shy of a quarter (23%) naming broadband as target area.
Catherine Barnard, Partner at Working The Future, said: “A future where a four-day work week is the norm could be a lot closer than people think. If someone can do their work in four days rather than five as a result of flexible working hours, it stands to reason that they can use the fifth day to further improve skills that complement their role. The challenge is to pivot from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to employment.”