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Lockdown lessons for homeworking.

June 6, 2020 9:33 PM
By Oliver Holmes
Originally published by Ipswich Liberal Democrats

During the Covid 19 lockdown, many Ipswich Lib Dem members, like a lot of town residents, have been working at home for the first time. Obviously, many jobs simply cannot be done over the internet, but for those that can, will work practices be permanently changed and what will this mean for offices in the town centre?

BT, based in Martlesham, estimate that nearly a tenth of their employees worldwide are home based, including many in Ipswich. But they also recognise that physical team meetings can enhance collaboration.This is a message shared by Work Wise UK, the non-profit campaigning for change to outdated working practices. Work Wise declared 15 May 2020 as National Work From Home Day. Flexibility seems to be the key.

For some years, Ipswich Borough Council has been equipping staff with laptops and tablets for homeworking allowing the Council to vacate a whole floor of Grafton House. Council meetings are now being conducted on Zoom and Teams systems with simultaneous YouTube broadcasts allowing residents to participate.

It is also reported that call centres, many of which are based in Ipswich, have been surprised at how effective homeworking has been during the lockdown.

But many individual employees have significant questions on what they can and cannot be asked to do. Some miss office relationships while others relish avoiding commuting and office formalities. Who pays for broadband and heating at home and will IBC want to charge business rates? There is clearly a need for more government guidance with changes needed to employment laws and the other sectors that will be impacted. It will also mean more cooperation from trade unions not always known for embracing change.

Adam, from Ipswich, sums up the issues involved: "Working from home has been challenging with my wife working full time and a school age child to home school. Once schools reopen fully and safely, it will be much easier without the distractions and increased demands this places on people. Fortunately, feedback from my clients on service quality has been positive."

The knock-on effect homeworking will have on demand for office space in Ipswich is not yet apparent. Offices have been vital for economic development and a major reduction in demand for office space would threaten IBC plans for the town's future. Savills, with offices in Ipswich, together with other property analysts in London suggest demand will remain but it will be for more flexible spaces. IBC are now setting up panels to review economic development post-Covid and they will have to move fast to respond to emerging trends.

What are your experiences of working from home? It would be good to get more feedback from readers on how Covid has changed their working environment.

Sources:
https://business.bt.com/successful-home-working/
https://www.workwiseuk.org/
https://www.gov.uk/introduction-to-business…/working-at-home
https://www.savills.co.uk/research_articles/229130/300175-0
https://www.standard.co.uk/business/as-working-from-home-is-embraced-will-there-still-be-demand-for-london-office-space-a4459006.html

Oliver Holmes home working