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Coronavirus: The UK is not prepared for home-working according to research

Figures released today by Leesman suggest that the UK is one of the least prepared countries to weather a mass home-working strategy.

The workplace experience expert has surveyed more than 700,000 employees worldwide. Of the 139,778 UK workers in its index, 55 per cent said they have little or no experience working from home, compared with 52 per cent of respondents globally.

With Covid-19 elevated to pandemic status by the World Health Organization, major corporations including Apple, Starbucks, Twitter and Facebook are now advising employees to work from home in a bid to curb the outbreak and protect their workforce. Many British businesses have released Covid-19 contingency plans including compulsory home-working policies, and some have begun to close sites and ban external visitors.

While the UK government prepares to ask even mildly sick people to stay home, leading researchers have suggested British workers who can work from home should do so, regardless of whether they are symptomatic, to reduce their risk of contracting coronavirus and fuelling the outbreak by spreading it to others.

The data also suggests that business must brace itself for reduced productivity and innovation. Of the employees who do work from home occasionally, 79 per cent typically do so for just one day a week or less, and only one per cent work from home for more than four days per week. What’s more, only 41 per cent of sporadic home workers have a dedicated room to work from, and 39 per cent don’t even have a designated workstation or desk.

Across the global database, respondents aged between 55-64 report the lowest satisfaction levels when it comes to their overall experience of home-working, compared with the under 25s who are the least affected by home-working.

The main risks with home-working include a notable reduction in sense of community (-11.8 per cent), social interaction (-10.3 per cent), knowledge transfer (-10.0 per cent), learning from others (-13.0 per cent) and informal collaboration (-5.4 per cent).

In light of the actions businesses are having to take in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Leesman is mobilising research tools that will enable employers across the private and public sector to support the newly remote workforce.

Tim Oldman, Leesman CEO, said: “Home-working will undoubtedly prove pivotal in limiting the impact of the coronavirus crisis. But the data suggests that many employers and employees will be out of their depth should British businesses be forced into lockdown. Our advice is for organisations to quickly quantify where their main obstacles will be and seek support. We know how and why corporate offices impact employee sentiment but have significantly less understanding of even the short-term impact of dispersing teams into environments designed for living, not working. Global business must brace themselves, but the UK perhaps more so.”

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