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28 November 2021

Opinion from Adrian Leopard & Co

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Working from home – part of the new normal?
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Working from home – part of the new normal?

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Make no mistake – a major shift in how our society works is now under way

There will come a day when someone will sit down and try and record all the changes that coronavirus has brought about to our daily lives.

However until someone settles down to try and consolidate how things have changed, we will just look at different areas of life in isolation and see how they have changed and then think about what that means for everything else.

The British people were given a clear instruction, twice in fact. You must stay at home so stay at home largely we did. This included working from home if you could do so. The instruction then changed – you should go back to work and then it changed back again because clearly going back to work created issues regarding spread of the disease. What no one could predict was how this new working from home would itself work. After all, if there is no cat to supervise you while you are working, will the mice be playing?

What was expected to be a relatively short term exercise in homeworking has in fact turned out to be an explosion and what is interesting is that this turns out to be to the detriment of London working in favour of a desire to live in the country and shun the whole idea of commuting. It is actually extraordinary how this has caught on. The well known accountants Deloittes have produced research which tells us that 23% of British workers hope to work from home all or most of the time after the pandemic has passed. On the other side of the coin, 28% say they never expect to work from home once the lockdown restrictions are over, compared with 50% who were asked this in March 2020.

And it is not just employees who are keen to adjust their life style this way, employers are keen on it too because they have discovered the financial benefits of smaller office units.

But what is remarkable in fact is that this idea works at all. The level of responsibility which the average working person takes on when self supervising over home working is a truly amazing phenomenon and employers are happy enough because they are still getting their work done. Of course it does make a difference as to what sort of work you do but so many professional people work alone and largely in isolation anyway but evidently in the main people do not find difficulty in making the adjustment.

The benefits of working from home are many. Apart from a more relaxed environment and the ability to work flexi-time, the costs of commuting are axed while the costs of communication today have dropped to a de minimis level – everyone has a computer and communication is basically free. It will be fine provided that the infrastructure can take the stress so more and more internet cables need to be laid.

So what do these amazing changes mean to the way society as a whole will move forward? In catering for example, what will happen to the thousands of sandwich shops providing quick lunches? Will shopping centres as a whole start to miss out because of lack of customers? What about good things like reduction in travelling and therefore a reduction in carbon emissions?

Will the new style cause medical problems? Will people start to miss the social interaction brought about by going to work? What about those cases where there is friction at home? Will that deteriorate?

Questions questions. Six months ago this was a rather speculative question but now as we hope to roll out of restrictions in a month, this has become a serious question. Of course salaries may change too – if that expensive season ticket is no longer required, then employers will be the first to spot the potential reduction in salary so there may well be some haggling going on – a trade off with staying at home and sharing the savings with your employer. Think of the reduction in pressure on roads and public transport systems.

It will take time to play itself out – these things usually do and we are talking here about a seismic shift in approach to work and location. But when you have people in offices sending e mails to the person at the next desk you have to ask the question just how important is the need to be able to ask the question with a good old fashioned voice? “No” – could be the answer – “I need your response in writing”. How often have we heard that one?

This is a good time to take a step back and watch what is going on. Changes like what we are beginning to see take time to manifest themselves in full so unless you have a crystal ball, relax and observe! And if you are in business for yourself, just think how a more stay at home economy might affect you – it could be good or it could be bad and if the latter may be you need to start addressing the options to find the better side while you still have time.

Adrian Leopard 24th May 2021

Photo Sven Brandsma

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Adrian Leopard & Company is the trading name of Alderney Offshore Ltd, a company registered in Alderney, Channel Islands number 1220.

Address P O Box 1027, Alderney GY9 3AS

Registered Office Seldomin, Longis Road, Alderney GY9 3YB.

Adrian Leopard & Co is represented in the UK by 3CL (UK) Ltd trading as Adrian Leopard Associates.

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