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From boardroom to spare room: the working from home revolution

UK companies are grappling with a cultural shift on the back of the coronavirus lockdown.

Before the coronavirus pandemic struck, 1.7 million people mainly worked from home in the UK, or about 5% of the country’s 33 million workforce. Over the past three months, millions more have joined them in the spare room or at the kitchen table.

Amid warnings that some lockdown restrictions could stay in place into 2021, companies are grappling with a sudden cultural shift in how we work.

The lessons learned from lockdown could spark a more rapid and widespread “virtualisation” of business practices.  It is clear, that we are likely to see an increasing virtualisation of business life.

“Coronavirus has concertinaed a lot of change we have been seeing over the last number of years in just three months, flexible working being one of them.

But declaring the end of the office is not clear-cut, says Prof André Spicer, from City University’s Cass Business School. He predicts a “radical decrease” in the amount of time people spend in the office – but says office working will not be over for good. One reason, he suggests, is that home-workers tend not to get promoted as quickly – “They tend to get overlooked”.

So with a recession on the way, people may want to be visible.

“Particularly in times of economic crisis, people will start thinking: I want to be in the workplace, the boss needs to see me,” he adds.

Prof Spicer also suggests offices will remain as hubs where senior managers are based, with employees travelling in once or twice a week to meet with their bosses. That seems to be similar to Twitter’s plan, allowing staff to work from home forever – although keeping offices open if people want to come in.