Working from home is here to stay, but does it work for everyone?

man typing on laptop

Working from home is here to stay, but does it work for everyone?

Prior to March 2020 around only 5.7% of us worked exclusively from home. In 2023 around half of the UK’s working population has some sort of hybrid existence.

Such a seismic shift isn’t easy, some employers are now rowing back against the tide. With a distinct lack of irony, Zoom, the communications company whose video app took flight during the pandemic, is insisting its staff return to the office. People living within 50 miles (80km) of an office must be there in person at least twice a week.

Elon Musk has weighed in, too. “I think that the whole notion of work from home is … not just a productivity thing. it’s morally wrong.”. This criticism is based on double standards: front line and service industry employees don’t have much choice but to travel to their workplace, while many others are able to pocket their train fare and stay at home in front of their laptops.

‘WFH’ has also had a hand in the economic performance of our cities, house prices and employee wellbeing: it has been one of the biggest changes to working patterns in recent history.

Can social workers be successful at home?

Many social workers enjoy the freedom to structure their own schedule. It simply works for lots of people – the fact they’re trusted to work remotely is also hugely gratifying. And of course, it’s easier to fit family and other responsibilities in.

However, the issue of personal space and maintaining boundaries is very real for social workers. Will, a newly qualified social worker still lives with his parents. The only place he can set up his workspace is his bedroom. For Will, it can be “weirdly disturbing” to have his colleagues and clients ‘inside’ his own private space when on video calls. For Will, the best of both worlds is having the flexibility to choose whether he goes into the office or stays at home to catch up with paperwork. And of course, on the front line, nothing can beat face to face and home visits.

More organised and efficient

“I am far more organised and efficient when I’m working from home,” says Aimee, a social worker in an adult assessment team. “I can fit in more meetings when I’m working remotely, and that means I can see more people per day.” Aimee also likes the fact that she saves money on fuel, and reduces her carbon footprint by staying at home.

Technology is also a winner, says Aimee: “When I use Microsoft Teams for my meetings, I can type up my notes in real time. It’s great because data gets into the system so much quicker.”

Make hybrid work for you

  1. Set a schedule to stick to

Taking control makes everything feel more manageable and reduces the chances of being overwhelmed by your workload.  It can help mental health as well. Aiming for a good sleep pattern, eating breakfast at the same time each day and dressing in day clothes rather than pyjamas will all help you to get into a working mindset.

If you can, set aside a work area. A dedicated workspace will reduce distractions, and working at a desk (with an ‘office’ chair) rather than on the sofa is so much better for your posture and musculature.

Most importantly, set an alarm, and make sure you stop at the end of the working day. Overworking can reduce the quality of your sleep and unnecessary stress will eat away at your mental health.

  1. Use communication tools

These will show people when you are on and offline. They’re a handy way to let your colleagues know when you’re available.

  1. Take breaks

Get your blood pumping! Taking a walk in the fresh air introducing some physical activity can help manage weight, reduce the risk of disease and strengthen bones and muscles. Sitting less and doing any amount of physical activity is beneficial all round.

Packing more joy into WFH

  • A comfy chair is a must, especially when you are sitting for most of the day. Splash out on one that helps your posture to avoid any back pain that could come from slouching on a sofa or dining chair.
  • If you have space on your desk for a second monitor, it may be a good idea. Being able to space out your tabs and see multiple documents open at once can help keep all your tasks in order.
  • A mouse and mouse mat are always a good shout, especially when working at a laptop all day. The built-in trackpad can become tiresome after a while, so give your hands a break – a full-size mouse can be a lifesaver.
  • Block out distractions and avoid irritation with some good quality over-ear noise cancelling headphones. Make sure that they’re the right size, and simply sit back and bask in the superior sound quality.
  • Enhance your visual world! A ring light with a tripod will add a certain something to Teams meetings. Everyone looks better in good lighting, and it might just give you the boost you didn’t know you needed.
  • Match your mood, and improve focus, energy and memory with an essential oil diffuser. Lavender can help you relax, eucalyptus will help you stay centred, and frankincense can get your creative juices flowing. Oils set the tone for your room and a diffuser puts moisture back into the air to help keep your skin healthy.