What we've learned from world's biggest remote working experiment

Eve Kelliher explores temples of Zoom to get verdict on relocation from boardroom to spare room
What we've learned from world's biggest remote working experiment

So do we label ourselves free-range or feral? That’s what I’d like to know since we’ve pivoted to become a nation of flexibly remote workers.

Go on, admit it: You probably pictured yourself blissfully wafting from breakfast table to Scandi-perfect desk in luxe pyjamas — and you imagined you’d instantly crack the code to the ultimate work-life balance.

But once we had relocated from boardroom to spare room, most of us discovered working from home not only demanded a serious and professional rethink of our interiors and home office set-up but also a cast-iron discipline — that’s if we weren’t to descend into total chaos.

 Pictures: iStock
 Pictures: iStock

So what have we learned so far from the world’s biggest remote working experience?

Well, back in those early days in March, we gobbled up Insta-style advice, complete with glossy pictures, on perfecting camera-ready complexions. For all those video calls, of course. Turns out keeping our faces out of the fridge was the far greater challenge.

But those video calls did overtake emails in this time as the number-one form of professional communication in the world.

And what has real life been like in our temples of Zoom? Ireland is in the top three countries for fastest transition to remote working while 44% of Irish professionals claim productivity increased at home.

That’s according to research carried out by recruiter Robert Walters during lockdown which surveyed 2,000 firms and over 5,500 professionals around the world.

And while personal grooming may have had to be put on hold for a time (hard to get an appointment even when hair salons and barbershops reopened, don’t you know) interiors experts have been swift to respond to our desire to groom our homes for functionality and comfort.

You see, following lockdowns, we learned the importance of embracing small-space living, according to Rosheen Forbes of Ikea UK and Ireland.

And what does this mean in terms of interiors purchases? Well, we are seeking “creative and affordable solutions that establish a flexible and functional environment without compromising on character, Rosheen says. “Practical and multi-purpose items like (Ikea’s) Nikkeby clothes rack are key to this trend in creating an organised and spacious vibe, helping neatly store clutter whilst adding an industrial feel with its durable steel structure.” Easy-to-move items will allow your interiors to adapt effortlessly to changing needs, conducive to an agile lifestyle that makes your everyday routine more seamless, freeing you to mix things up when you need a change and finetune to your ever-evolving style, adds Rosheen.

Studies or home offices were the most frequent remote working location globally. 
Studies or home offices were the most frequent remote working location globally. 

Companies were able to transition to remote working in less than seven days but serious issues were also flagged, with a third of managers raising concerns of staff mental health during lockdown, while 82% stated lack of physical interaction with their team caused a decline in mental health.

Ireland experienced an even more drastic change, where just 25% of businesses stated their workforce was able to entirely work remotely pre-lockdown. This sky-rocketed amid Covid-19, with 82% of firms being able to push the button on remote working in less than a week.

But it would appear tech might not always be our strong point. As a result, half of staff are expecting their employer to invest in technology that enhances working from home post-Covid.

On the upside we’re more productive at home. Almost half (44%) of Irish professionals stated that their productivity has increased since remote working began, and a fifth (18%) of Irish employers agree that work output has improved.

A quarter (23%) of Irish professionals claim remote working has negatively impacted mental health, according to the Robert Walters survey. This sentiment is mirrored by employers, with 30% of bosses claiming they are concerned about staff experiencing mental health issues on account of social isolation and economic anxiety bought on by remote working and Covid-19.

“Economic uncertainty, health fears, risk of redundancy, reduced or longer hours, social isolation, poor physical work set-up, homeschooling — these are all fresh concerns which employees did not have to worry about three months ago,” said Louise Campbell, managing director at Robert Walters Ireland.

We are social animals — and work plays a big part in that. According to the study, 82% of Irish professionals stated that a lack of physical interaction with the team was the leading cause of a decline in mental health.

A Scandinavian-style loft work space. 
A Scandinavian-style loft work space. 

The next most popular location on average for the Irish was the living room sofa (15%) and the bed (14%) – with the bed or bedroom as a workplace typically the most popular amongst Gen Z 18-24 year olds (43%).

Keeping our complexions camera-ready? Keeping our faces out of the fridge was the greater challenge

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