Working from home? 40% of employees did during lockdown

40% of employees worked remotely at Levels 3 and 4 earlier this year - how does the future of work look?

More than 40 percent of employed people did at least some of their work from home during the lockdown at COVID-19 alert levels 4 and 3 in April and early May, Stats NZ said this week.

At alert level 4 in April 2020, with all non-essential businesses closed, more people worked from home than from locations outside the home, such as business premises and other workplaces, based on figures from the household labour force survey (HLFS).

People were asked whether they worked from home during the week before they were surveyed (the survey reference week). Those who had worked both at home and outside the home during that week were counted in both categories.

At level 4, 42 percent of employed people worked from home and 30 percent outside the home during their survey reference week. Another 35 percent had jobs or businesses but did not work during that week.

“As the country moved down through the alert levels and the lockdown eased, more people returned to their workplaces, but many continued to do at least some work from home,” labour market statistics manager Andrew Neal said.

By level 1, 83 percent were working outside the home and 29 percent at home. Many of those working at home would also have returned to their usual workplace for some of the time, so the median number of hours worked from home fell from 30 per week at alert levels 4 and 3, to just 10 per week at alert level 1.

Changing employee expectations

Employee expectations are changing. Hours of work, place of work, tenure, needs, and development goals are no longer supported by a one-size fits all approach. People are willing to work any time from anywhere, they buy-in to company culture not company pension and they are more transient than ever taking up a new role, on average, every two years.

Managing expectations and responding to change

Viv Patterson, principal consultant of EQ Consultants, says trust, planning, clarity, communication, and a supportive culture are key to successful flexible working arrangements.

“Employers are often afraid to introduce flexible arrangements due to concerns over business performance and managing employees remotely. However, for many, this would have been disproven over lockdown. Therefore, employers need to learn to trust their employees and communicate effectively by creating an open culture that rewards not blames and this is underpinned by company values.

"Although many employers would like to introduce flexible work hours, for some this will not be a suitable time as they struggle with reduced business and work to overcome challenges. The majority of employees have been accepting of changes to hours but remember that as an employer you are legally required to consider any employee flexible working variation requests. Take an open and honest approach when responding; if you cannot support flexible working due to current business uncertainty, explain this and agree to revisit it when business picks up again.

"Don't forget any employment variation that you have agreed with staff needs to be in writing. Revisit any agreements that you have made over the past month or two, or they will, by default, become permanent agreements.”

What next?

Under Part 6AA of the Employment Relations Act 2000 all employees have the right to request a variation of their working arrangements at any time. Consider including a Flexible Working Policy into your employee processes.

You can download a copy of our flexible working policy template to populate with your company’s information here.

For further advice about updating your company policies call (03) 366 4034 or email info@eqconsultants.co.nz