When Coronavirus hit and lockdown was introduced, I made a prediction. I said there would be numerous academic studies into how it would impact on children, home life and working culture. The impact of the lockdown was the instant introduction of remote working for huge swathes of the workforce combined with homeschooling.
It turns out my prediction was bang on. I know of three academic studies that are already underway.
The academics will come to their own conclusions. I have some of my own thoughts as to how home working over recent months has been different to home working pre COVID-19 and what the long term impact may be.
Homeschooling Has Made It Tough
Let me just get right in there with the most obvious point. No one in their right mind would attempt to homeschool children. Especially primary school children, while also trying to do the day job!
Speaking from my own experience, this has been incredibly tough. After three months of trying to homeschool and work from home, I will freely admit I was totally drained. Natalie Costa, a confidence coach who works with children and founder of PowerThoughts, put it to me very bluntly: “This is not ‘homeschooling’ that we’re doing as that is a choice. At the moment we are trying to manage and survive in a crisis, so be kind to yourself.”
I have worked from home for a few years now. The absence of school and childcare options means that what we’ve experienced over recent months has not been a typical home working experience at all.
Dads Are Doing More Childcare
According to the charity the Fatherhood Institute, it turns out dads are doing lots more childcare. The charity claims the amount of unpaid childcare done by fathers has rocketed up by 58% in just two months. Yes, mums are still doing more than dads, but this is an enormous step in the right direction.
No Commute = More Work Getting Done
I am basing this claim on personal experience, but without the commute, are workers more productive?
I take my wife as an example. She has been home working for months and most days she logs on by half seven in the morning. She’d normally be on a train at that time of day but instead she works. This surely is a positive change to our working culture.
The other huge benefit of this has been environmental. While traffic levels seem to have crept back up, the lack of cars clogging up the roads has been very noticeable, not to mention the lack of aircraft. Have we all got used to using Zoom and Microsoft Teams instead of doing lots of avoidable business travel to meet people face to face? I’d like to think so.
What Will The Future Hold For Our Working Culture?
In addition many of us are dedicating more time to exercise. There is also evidence that people are eating more healthily. But what do I think the long-term impact of lockdown will be?
There is already evidence of this. Both DaddyJobs.co.uk and LinkedIn are seeing more people applying for flexible roles. Crucially, employers are increasingly advertising rules as flexible, so it seems everyone is seeing the benefits.
Remote and flexible working was unthinkable by some employers and considered impossible in some industries. The past few months have proven that’s not the case.
I don’t think we’re going to see the end of office life. But I think it’ll be much more common for people to work from home two or three days a week. Or that the office will become somewhere you visit once a fortnight. What I’m hearing from various people is that they like home working, but they also like the social aspect of the office environment. So I think a mix of the two is highly likely.
Following on from this, flexible working will be much more accepted as the norm for men. A man’s request for flexible working has historically been twice as likely to be rejected as a woman’s. With both genders being forced to work flexibly, I very much hope that mindset has been consigned to history.
With men working remotely, we’ll hopefully also see greater gender equality both at home and within workplaces.
I am hopeful for the future. I think there’s a risk we could slide back to old ways of working, but I very much hope flexible working stays the norm for the majority of employees. A permanent positive change to our working culture is long overdue.