Category Archives: Work from Home

Should everybody be back in?

Written by Jacqueline Bird, Head of Move and Change Management at Crown Workspace

 So, the debate on whether staff should return to the office rumbles on.

Two years ago, hybrid working was being embraced and adopted with open arms. It felt like our workplaces had come of age and we had all finally been given permission to untether ourselves from our desks and work in a way that truly embraced the freedom to be your best, whenever or wherever that may be.


However, over the last 12 months, some of the world’s most famous organisations have made a conscious effort to return their staff to the office. Strong enforcement tactics have been enlisted as they have reminded their staff that “the office remains the primary workplace.” The Chancellor famously weighed into the debate earlier this year, saying, ‘The default will be you work in the office unless there’s a good reason not to be in the office.’

Such opinions have elicited resistance from many workers, politicians, and some employers, who are very happy with the new WFH/hybrid working models.

The hybrid model does offer many benefits – organisations such as Airbnb have told their staff they can work anywhere in the world without experiencing a pay cut! The ultimate endorsement on how you can do your best work from any location.

This unchallenged level of freedom comes with an overwhelming climate of trust, which focusses and empowers your workforce to do their best work. Hybrid working has resulted in the need for less real estate, so less energy and resources are required to fuel giant buildings and travel to and from them, reducing the world’s carbon footprint.


This model does also bring challenges for some; the disconnect from colleagues and peers, diminished friendship groups and relationships can bring a real sense of loneliness and isolation. This solitary model has a knock-on effect on our cities and high streets. With falling demand, they become lifeless as businesses close, leading to job losses for the staff that worked there.


There are entrenched views on both sides, but how can employers who would like their staff to be in the workplace more nudge them back gently, without damaging relationships by making it compulsory or going even further and monitoring and reporting on individuals.

A route we have guided several organisations down recently, is to make it an inviting destination of choice that employees want to be in – and stay in.


Create an appealing environment

One way to get teams back into the physical office space is ensuring the working environment is agile and meets the unique demands of everyone within the team. Employers should focus on the aspects that employees value the most and ensure that they provide a distinctive environment that home working cannot equal.

A good way to ensure that you are providing your teams with what they want from a workspace is to get regular feedback and let them be involved in the design decisions. This could take the form of monthly forums or possibly online polls so teams can vote on the interior décor, fixtures and fittings.


Employers are competing with the comfort of home so they must work to transform workplaces to be welcoming environments, with the right tech needed to do the job effectively and provide ergonomic equipment that matches any orthopaedic requirements that individuals may have.

Look at where you can add value for teams, this can include introducing things such as guest chefs on the days people are less likely to come in, offer free weekly fitness and meditation classes or introduce free snacks and hot drinks.


At one with nature

Another way to create an inspiring environment is to incorporate biophilic design. This draws inspiration from the natural world and can be useful for spaces that have no access to outside areas. Spending time in green space or bringing nature into your everyday life can reduce feelings of stress or anger, improve mood and help with anxiety.

Simple improvements such as adding living walls, plants, water fountains, and even photographs of nature to the office are examples of this. Where the space allows, adding window boxes and rooftop gardens can also add an extra natural element to the workspace.  Look to maximise natural light in the office, placing desks as close to windows as possible, and locating less frequented sections, such as conference rooms in the centre of the building.


Designated areas

Offices are not just places to do work anymore; they need to have multiple functions and be spaces that employees want to spend time in. A modern office might, for instance, provide quiet areas, hubs, recreation areas, phone booths for mobile calls, lounge areas and ad-hoc touchdown spaces, instead of requiring employees to complete all tasks at one desk in a designated spot.

By creating a vibrant think-tank space, employers can help make the office a place that sparks spontaneous idea generation and this is more likely to encourage employees to want to spend time there.


Use scent

Scents can be used to immediately engage with employees as soon as they enter the workspace, as well as setting the mood and atmosphere for the day or meeting ahead. Research has shown that smell is the sense most closely linked to emotional response and recollection and it is the most sensitive one.

A workspace with a pleasant scent can lead to positive outcomes, such as increased productivity and overall job satisfaction. Popular choices for offices are fragrances that illicit calming, soothing emotions and create a welcoming space that are not too divisive – such as vanilla, tea and camomile.


Looking to the future

Employers can communicate to their staff that the physical workplace can have benefits and advantages over the home by making modifications, altering areas for changing needs, developing new collaborative spaces, and focusing on sustainability.

My advice is to find a healthy balance, a place where you get the best from both ways of working. Few people long to return to the office full-time, but many can be persuaded to attend more often, if it’s made a pleasant, worthwhile experience.

Striking the perfect balance has many benefits for both your staff and your organisation – it’s the best of both worlds.


Only 17% of over 55s get the option to work from home, despite reporting highest levels of wellbeing

A recent survey of more than 1,000 office workers in the UK by invoice finance provider Novuna Business Cash Flow, highlights a significant gap in work-from-home opportunities for those aged 55 and above.

  • Among those in the 55+ age group who worked from home, a substantial 48% reported a positive impact on their wellbeing. This contrasts markedly with younger age groups, where only 27% of 18-34-year-olds and 34% of 35-54-year-olds reported similar benefits.
  • The majority of the 55+ age group cited “working from home more often has a positive effect on my wellbeing” as the primary reason for their preference for remote work.
  • Despite these reported benefits, only 17% of those aged 55+ had the option to work from home more often due to their employer’s offer, a figure significantly lower than the 44% for the 18-34 age group and 23% for the 35-54 age group.

Work from Home Opportunities and their impact

48% of the over-55s who worked from home experienced a positive impact on their wellbeing

The survey reveals that 48% of the over-55s who worked from home experienced a positive impact on their wellbeing, a contrast to just 27% of 18-34-year-olds and 34% of 35-54-year-olds. This data underscores the particular importance of remote working arrangements for older employees in enhancing their wellbeing.

55+ age group cited “working from home more often has a positive effect on my wellbeing” as their primary reason for remote work

Not only does the survey show that 48% of the 55+ age group feel working from home has a positive effect on wellbeing, it is their primary reason for remote working. This underscores the significance of offering more remote work options to the older workforce.

Just 17% aged 55+ were offered frequent work-from-home options

Despite the clear benefits, only 17% of those aged 55+ were offered more frequent work-from-home options by their employers, compared to 44% of younger counterparts aged 18-34, and 23% of those aged 35-54. This indicates a notable gap in the provision of remote work opportunities across different age groups.


John Atkinson, Head of Commercial and Strategy at Novuna Business Cash Flow, notes, “The opportunity to work from home is crucial for the wellbeing of our older workers. It’s essential for organisations to consider this need and ensure their remote work policies are inclusive for all age groups.”

Role-related factors: Understanding work nature differences across generations

Differences in remote work opportunities across age groups may stem from the distinct nature of their roles. Younger workers often pursue digital roles, well-suited for remote environments, whereas older workers, typically in senior positions, may require office presence for effective leadership and management.

Despite these role-related variations, the significant well-being benefits that older workers gain from remote working cannot be overlooked.

The value of flexibility: Older workers’ appreciation for remote work opportunities

Having often spent the majority of their careers in traditional office settings, the older generation may particularly appreciate the flexibility and change that remote work offers, in contrast to younger workers who may have had exposure to such flexibility earlier in their careers.

This sense of gratitude and newfound work-life balance for older employees reinforces the need for employers to thoughtfully consider extending remote work opportunities to all age groups, ensuring a holistic approach to employee well-being and job satisfaction.

For more information, visit Novuna Business Cash Flow’s blog page here.

About the Research:

  • Field Dates: 31st October – 3rd November 2023.
  • Sample: 2000 UK adults – 1,210 of which were office workers.
  • Weighting: Weighted to be nationally representative.
  • Results based on the following survey question: “You mentioned that you work from home more than you did last year. Which, if any, of the below reasons explain why? Select all that apply.” All options that could be selected are shown in the graph entitled “Reasons why 55+ age group work from home more often in 2023 than 2022”.
  • More details of this survey can be provided upon request.


About Novuna

Novuna is a trading style of Mitsubishi HC Capital UK PLC, a leading financial services company, authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). We have over 2,200 employees, £7.6bn of net earning assets and nearly 1.3 million customers across five business divisions; Novuna Consumer Finance, Novuna Vehicle Solutions, Novuna Business Finance, Novuna Business Cash Flow and our European division specialising in Vendor Finance. For over 40 years, formerly as Hitachi Capital (UK) PLC, we have worked with consumers and small to medium enterprises (SMEs) as well as corporate multinationals in the UK and mainland Europe, enabling millions of consumers and businesses to achieve their ambitions.

We are a wholly owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi HC Capital Inc., strengthening our relationship with one of the world’s largest and most diversified financial groups with over £60bn of assets.


Novuna Business Cash Flow

Novuna Business Cash Flow provides cashflow finance solutions to SMEs across a wide range of sectors in the UK, allowing businesses to release cash from unpaid invoices within 24 hours.

With remote digital on-boarding through FLi, its unique platform, and flexible approach to contracts, Novuna Business Cash Flow was recognised as Best Factoring and Invoice Discounting Provider at the 2023 Business Moneyfacts Awards and at the Credit Awards 2023 winners of SME lender of the year over £1million and Best use of Technology, Commercial finance.

Novuna Business Cash Flow is a  trading style of Mitsubishi HC Capital UK PLC, part of Mitsubishi HC Capital Inc., one of the world’s largest and most diversified financial groups, with over £60bn of assets.

Modern Brits are resorting to parenting and working at the same time, due to the cost-of-living

Researchers polled home (and hybrid) working parents, and discovered as many as 87 percent now regularly look after their children while still trying to do their day job, with 85 percent even having to work in the same room as their kids.

Nine in ten (91 percent) of the parents, polled by Capital One UK say they find it stressful juggling work and parenting duties, with one in three (37 percent) saying working full time in the office meant they were able to concentrate more on their work.

Yet two thirds (64 percent) agree that childcare costs have become more difficult since the cost-of-living crisis began and as a result over a quarter (28 percent) have had to cut back on childcare.

Over a third (37 percent) have taken holiday leave to look after their children, while half (49 percent) say they are arguing more with their other half as a result of working and parenting in the same house.

In addition to working, parents also say they are juggling cleaning (56 percent), cooking (55 percent), sorting out family mealtimes (53 percent), helping with homework (44 percent) and doing the weekly food shop (44 percent), when working from home.

Three quarters (73 percent) admit that they find the school holidays and half terms especially difficult, with 84 percent confessing that they find it financially challenging. 41 percent have turned to friends and family for help financially.

While 69 percent have been forced to cut back on certain areas to help cover the cost of school holidays, with meals out (74 percent), new clothes (60 percent), beauty treatments (48 percent) and days out (48 percent) all off the table.

Parents expect to spend an extra £645 throughout the half-term, with £230 allocated to additional childcare, £169 on the weekly shop and a staggering £246 on entertaining the kids. October is the half-term parents struggle with the most financially (39 percent), closely followed by February (38 percent). The May half-term is not only a warmer, lighter holiday but less damaging to wallets, with less than a quarter of parents (23 percent) citing it as the most financially challenging half-term.

Michelle Robb, Head of Research and Insights at Capital One UK said: “Our data shows us that half-term can be a busy, stressful and expensive time for a lot of people, especially working parents. We’re on a mission to drive positive change in the industry, putting the best interests of our customers first, by doing one small, good thing at a time.

“Our Budget Planner is one tool that can help parents manage their spend, preparing them for the increased costs of school holidays and the period leading up to Christmas. We’d encourage parents to monitor their spending and only spend what they can afford during the October half-term. By ensuring they budget accordingly, it will make it easier to navigate and prepare for the times of the year when spending tends to be at its highest. ”

The same study analysed the true cost of the October half-term to understand the rationale behind the increased expense. With parents admitting to still recovering from a £609 ‘financial hangover’ after the summer holidays, as they move towards October half-term.

This research of 2,000 hybrid and home-working parents was commissioned by Capital One UK and conducted by Perspectus Global in September 2023.

Best ways to upgrade a home office

Have you just moved into a new office? Maybe even just made some office space in your home? Regardless, it can be a bit of a pain to figure out exactly what you’ll need all at once. Luckily for you, we have compiled a list of ways to make your office a lot nicer! Here are some of the best ways to upgrade a home office.


Mount a TV to the wall

If you have an office space then it’s a brilliant idea to have a place where you can relax on your break, what better way to chill out for your well-deserved half an hour than mounting your TV to the wall? Not only will this make your environment look a lot more sophisticated in general but it’s a brilliant practical investment to make. It’s a good idea to get rid of that old TV unit that’s taking up so much space. Not only will your home office look a lot more relaxed and welcoming but having your TV mounted to the wall can also even be a lot safer! If you own pets or small children a TV could easily fall and cause injuries, which is never a good thing. Mounting a TV to the wall is without a doubt one of the best ways to upgrade a home office. Click here for TV wall mounting services.


Add some greenery

Adding some greenery is a fantastic way to bring some life to your office, we highly recommend incorporating some plants or flowers into your office space as this can have a number of benefits. Not only will this make your office feel a lot more welcoming, but it can actually improve your air quality! This means that there is a range of health benefits that come with including greenery in your office. Considering that it looks both amazing aesthetically and can even improve your health, you literally can’t go wrong here! The downside is you’ll have to remember to water it, but there is a range of easy to maintain house plants if you’re forgetful. The fact that there are multiple reasons why this is one of the best ways to upgrade a home office definitely gives it a place on this list!


Invest in a better chair

Now this one might seem a little random, but having an ergonomic chair is a very important factor in your office. If you will be in your office for lengthy periods of time while doing your work then it’s best to make sure that you are sitting correctly, there are various reasons for this. Not only will you probably get a lot more work done if you are more comfortable, but if your chair isn’t ergonomic enough then it could lead to a long list of health problems in future. Serious back and neck problems are likely to happen down the line if you don’t pay close attention to this. You might even be hunched over right now while reading this article! Investing in a better chair is unquestionably one of the best ways to upgrade a home office considering how important it is for your health. There are many affordable options on the market for you to have a look at. We really can’t stress enough how important this one is!


Upgrade your PC or laptop

If you’re working in an office from home, then your PC or laptop will no doubt be your most valuable asset. If you’ve had your PC or Laptop for a long time now, why not consider upgrading? A hardware upgrade has the potential to make your life a whole lot easier. You don’t even need to totally replace your PC, adding some new parts can extend its lifespan greatly. It’s better to replace your hardware when you identify it playing up rather than waiting for it to break, leading to a whole lot more hassle. If you use your laptop or PC for anything else other than work this can also be a great investment for other reasons!


Add some pictures or artwork

You may feel as if your office space feels very boring, why not lighten up the mood with some artwork? It goes without saying that everyone has a different taste in art, so adding some artwork would be a fantastic way to express yourself and make your workspace feel a little more personalised. You could maybe even add a nice family photo to your desk. Considering how much time you may spend working, it’s a good idea to make your environment as nice as possible. When discussing the best ways to upgrade your home office, this one is a no brainer. The possibilities are endless, you could even get creative and make some of your own artwork to hang up in your office!

Tech spend increases by 43% on average for IT decision makers, with majority experiencing ‘technology drift’

  • 85% of IT decision makers have seen tech spend increase since pandemic, but only a third report tangible value from new investment
  • 62% are experiencing technology drift – defined as an increased gap between what companies are trying to do and what they actually achieve – as a result of spiralling costs

London, UK; 29th March 2022: Technology spend for IT decision makers has increased by an average of 43% since the pandemic began, with 62% also experiencing technology drift in their company. That’s according to Orbus Software, a leading provider of cloud solutions for digital transformation, which surveyed IT decision makers across the US and UK to determine the increased financial demands of the pandemic.

The most common reasons for increased spending were revealed as onboarding new technology to support working from home and hybrid working (71%), rising technology costs (69%), and the introduction of new IT regulations (56%).

However, when it comes to onboarding new technology, only 30% say that all new onboarded technology has brought a tangible value, with 51% saying ‘most’ has. The majority (79%) say that all or most of the technology purchases over the past 24 months have been pre-planned, compared to 13% who say they have been last minute. The study identified that the UK is more prone to last minute investments than the US (17% vs 9%).

Michael D’Onofrio, CEO at Orbus Software, commented: “The past two years have undoubtedly elevated the importance of technology, yet this technology drift – where there is a growing gap between what companies are trying to do and what they actually achieve – is causing significant problems. Despite spending increasing, not even a third of organisations can state it has delivered a tangible value.”

To combat these challenges and plan future technology and software purchases, 80% of respondents say their company has either onboarded (34%) or have plans to onboard (46%) an Enterprise Architecture tool. Diving deeper, the survey found that almost half (47%) onboarded Enterprise Architecture due to rising technology costs and 46% wanted to reduce the gap between IT and business stakeholders. Alongside this, 41% are bringing in Enterprise Architecture to simplify increasing complexities, and 39% say they need to gain greater visibility before moving to the cloud.

“We are currently in a period of significant friction, and organisations are needing to pivot frequently. Because of this, organisations need reliable core services that give them visibility, reliability and agility,” D’Onofrio continued. “It’s vital to have a tool that can give companies that visibility and insight. Without Enterprise Architecture, the challenges faced by IT teams will continue to get out of hand.”

The survey also revealed the IT roadmaps in place across the UK and US. It found that 95% have a technology roadmap in place to help make informed technology purchases. They most commonly plan for the next 6 (26%) or 12 months (37%). However, 14% have an 18-month roadmap in place and 19% for 2 years or even longer.

Adapting Your Business for Hybrid Working: A Practical Guide

More than ever before, it feels like the world is resuming to some level of morality. There are no new variants, there’s talk of dropping mask mandates, and office desks are filling up again.

Although, they aren’t filling up as much as they used to. That is because a lot of employees are opting to keep working from home, enjoying the freedom from prying eyes and the freedom to work around their home lives.

This has resulted in a lot of office managers and business owners adopting a hybrid working style. It can be summed up as various employees coming and going in and out of the office, but there could be set days and a schedule, or allowing employees to come and go as they please.

But it takes some forethought to pull off. Businesses need to rethink how their basic operations will play out when half of their staff aren’t physically in the office. So, how do you do it? Read our guide to adapting your workplace for hybrid working to find out.

Create a schedule

The important first step of adapting is communication. Ask your staff members what they prefer. You might find some of them like coming back to the office, since it gives them an excuse to go out and isn’t as lonely. Or some might want to stick to working from home because commuting is too stressful, or lunches are too expensive.

From there, you can gauge what the next step is. If everyone is unanimous on staying at home, you might as well pack up. If they all want to come in, you can accommodate.

If there is a mix, you can consider starting a schedule, allowing both sides of the debate to experience both working from home and in the office on a rota.

Replace your stationary desktops

However, unless the entirety of your staff is looking to get back into the office, you might need to replace your computers. Stationary desktops aren’t much use in a more fluid work environment. Even if you have an entire workforce in office every day, things happen. Staff can get snowed in, have an appointment, catch a cold and not want to spread it, etc. Working from home solves a lot of problems, but they will need a laptop to do it.

Downsize your furniture

A lot of offices are switching premises or renting out half of their space to other businesses. With so many people no longer returning to their desks, office managers are looking at a very empty space that needs filled or emptied.

This means half of the office equipment is being tossed. Offices are getting rid of superfluous desks and chairs and “hot seating” the rest. Employees come in and grab a chair wherever they feel like, with no ownership. Tomorrow another employee will be in the same seat.

This can feel like a waste of money, or throwing money in the bin, but it doesn’t need to be. If you’re looking for somewhere to put your old PCs, desks and chairs, you can rent a garage and store everything until you need it again.

Use a project management platform

The problem for a lot of employers throughout any working from home situation is that they can’t keep an eye on their employees. It’s hard to know if anyone is slacking off or not doing their best and meanwhile you are wondering if that project will ever get finished.

What can make all of these elements easier is a project management platform like Trello. You can assign every member of your team a checklist of tasks that need done and then watch as the work is ticked off.

Assign everyone their daily tasks and prove that the work is being done or break up a big project into delegated bite-size pieces.


December Sees Huge Demand for Quick Property Completions

Construction workers collaborating on new house building

The festive period sees everything ramped up: from shopping and spending to eating and drinking, everything seems to move that bit quicker and go that bit further. The same applies for buying properties and securing mortgages over the festive season.

In December, there’s a huge rush for people looking to move house to complete their move before Christmas and the New Year. Whether it’s because they want to enjoy Christmas in their new place, or start fresh in a new property for the year ahead, people become fixated on wanting to finalise before the festivities begin.

Last year, Zoopla predicted that house sales would hit the highest level in a decade before the 2020 festive break. They found that asking prices for properties rose another 3.5% in October 2020 – this was the highest in nearly three years. Zoopla expected 140,000 sales in December, the highest since December 2006. 

The same is expected to happen this year with people rushing to close their property deals and get their mortgage applications approved. 


How to Make Properties Complete Faster

A lot of the ability to complete fast relies on the solicitors of the buyer and the seller of the property, with a large amount of legals and administration to run through, this is what often holds up the completion of a sale from going through.

In addition, any new information on a potential purchase can delay things, from issues with the property, the road or different housing laws that can make the completion take longer than it needs to.

A huge issue is someone falling out of the property chain, since they no longer wish to purchase one of the properties in the mix. This can cause an entire deal to collapse or a spurred effort to try and  find a new buyer. This is sometimes where using bridging finance can be useful since it turns someone into a cash buyer and it means that the property can be completed.

Some buyers have last minute issues with their mortgage, whether it is losing their job or their mortgage offer expiring – causing the deal to be delayed.


What Happens Next?

Of course if the property completion does not happen this side of the year, it is simply carried over until January.

At this point, the UK sees a huge wave of new enquiries for construction work, including bespoke kitchens, conservatories, loft conversions and garage conversions.

At the moment, with covid restrictions being introduced again, there will certainly be an increased demand for home and garden office pods as the British public is asked to work remotely and avoid commuting into offices.

The epidemic currently blindsiding employers – how secure is your confidential company information?

Written by Michelle Last, Partner at Punter Southall Law

 The announcement in March last year that employees should work from home in response to the pandemic markedly changed the working environment.

In response, many companies hurriedly put in place arrangements to enable staff to work from home where possible, in order to save lives (and rightly so).

However, in providing unfettered home access to confidential clients lists and other “crown jewels”, many employers have found themselves inadvertently exposed to an epidemic of other sorts; theft of confidential information and trade secrets by employees working from home.

Lawyers and forensic IT investigators have noted a significant and ongoing trend of increasing numbers of workers stealing this kind of material while working from home.

I believe this is driven by a combination of four key factors:

1. A Change in Employee Expectations

There has been a notable change in employees’ expectations and feelings of entitlement. Many employees now want to be able to work when they want and how they want. If their role no longer suits them or does not provide the flexibility to which they have become accustomed in the last 18 months, they will go elsewhere.

But it is more than this. There is a feeling amongst some that, somehow, they are entitled to take clients’ lists, financial data and the like, because they have worked on this or helped develop a client relationship.

In reality, the law is clear and that theft of confidential information may amount to gross misconduct and give rise to civil and criminal claims. One senior barrister told me he had never lost a case against a former employee who had stolen confidential information. Simply because they are not entitled to do it.

2. Booming Jobs Market

The jobs market is buoyant – with the highest number of vacancies in the UK for 20 years, at 1.1 million as of September. Workers armed with sensitive information may find themselves highly sought after and seek to secure a role by unfairly using this data.

3. Undefined Policies and Procedures

Many businesses simply have no IT processes and policies in place to prevent or identify confidential information or data breaches or set out the consequences for such conduct.

4. A less formal working environment

Workers may feel safer sending on what belongs to their employer from the safety of their own home, rather than a formal office environment, where there may be a greater sense of being watched.

The steps employers need to take

As a minimum, companies should have in place comprehensive contracts of employment that protect confidential information, require employees to return any such material on request and in any event on termination and require employees to comply with the IT security policy.  This policy should be signed by the employee and should include important prohibitions on things like sending documents and data to a personal email address or downloading it to a USB.

The current most popular method of theft seems to be sending to a personal email. This seems such an obvious and clear breach but many employers simply do not prohibit this or communicate the fact that this is prohibited.

Firms which implement robust IT security measures are much better placed to respond to potential breaches. One client has a system in place which immediately alerts IT in the event an email is sent to a personal email address or if information is downloaded to a USB. Other clients ensure the screen saver flags a warning which makes clear that unlawful downloading, misuse or retention of confidential information is forbidden.

Ultimately, it can be costly and time consuming to deal with breaches of confidence and can require reporting to the Information Commissioner. Employers who have evaluated the risks and taken appropriate measures, will be much better placed to face this particular epidemic.


Moneypenny Marks Word Mental Health Day with Top Tips to Minimise Stressful Interruptions at Work

Over the past year workers’ stress associated with the interruptions caused by remote working – such as Zoom meetings, deliveries and dogs barking – have increased and recent research shows that stress-related absence soared by 64%[1] in 2020.  Further data from Berkeley University[2] revealed that average work interruptions take 23 minutes and 15 seconds to recover from, even if the distraction is only a minute, and the inability to focus on work is directly linked to stress.

To mark World Mental Health day (10th October 2021) Joanna Swash Group CEO at global outsourced communications provider, Moneypenny, shares tips for minimising interruptions during the working day.

Joanna said: “Lost productivity costs businesses on average £143 billion each year [3] – and results in 1 hour 24 minutes of distraction per employee each day. Interruption drains energy, kills creativity and dampens performance, leading to the dreaded brain fog that can be so debilitating.

“Answering an unexpected call is perhaps one of the most common interruptions that can disrupt the flow of work. When we shift gears, our mind must firstly stop processing what we were doing before refocusing on the new task. Therefore, even a seemingly quick distraction can totally throw concentration off course. Also, when we’re interrupted, we rarely go back to what we were doing beforehand.

Joanna continues: “Businesses need to actively help their employees ringfence time for the quiet head down working that is so important to productivity as well as employees’ feeling of accomplishment and control. They must also actively promote and support wellbeing – whether that’s through counselling programmes, cooking lessons, financial education, buddy systems or simply by encouraging staff to simply ‘switch off’ devices for 15 minutes each day.”

Here are some of Joanna’s tips to minimise interruptions during the working day, to help reduce stress:

1.     Formalise meeting etiquette

With the rise of video calls, it can be tempting to book them in without the level of scheduling that would have gone into a physical meeting – particularly when travel is not required. Video meetings afford flexibility but try to avoid unplanned meetings, or those that don’t stick to time and be mindful of what timezones and respecting working hours if you are a global organsiation. When meetings do occur, always use an agenda to stay on topic and think about companywide ‘meeting etiquette’ to help engender positive change and an empowered approach to time management.

2.      Outsource communications

If staff know there’s the right infrastructure in place to support them, it can reduce worry.  For example, if staff know all customer calls will be handled warmly, professionally and efficiently, even when they’re busy or in a meeting, it can instil calm and focus without a ringing phone breaking their concentration. Outsourced telephone answering, switchboard and outbound follow-up support is the ideal solution for keeping interruptions to a minimum while maintaining client/customer experience.

3.     Choose technology that aligns

Streamline the number of video and project management platforms in use across the company so that employees get to ‘know them’ and don’t lose time loading different systems or finding multiple log-ins in-between meetings and tasks. There’s real value in keeping it simple and choosing technology that has wider value – for example, our telephone answering system has a Microsoft Teams integration which means call handlers know who’s available and when. The result is less interruption for busy staff, and a better client experience.

4.     Diary management

Diaries aren’t just for meetings. Encourage employees to use their diaries to block manage their time and include tasks and add detail about whether they’re available or need quiet time. By making sure that front of house, reception or outsourced teams have access to these diaries it’s possible to give employees the space they need to look after themselves, be productive and thrive.

UK bosses warned to ‘double-down’ on young people feeling isolated and underappreciated at work

New report from Advanced shows one in four young workers using bedrooms as their workspace and just 37% have had regular check-ins from their boss since working remotely

UK bosses are being warned to double-down on their support for young, entry-level employees after new research from Advanced reveals that 18-24 year olds are feeling isolated, overworked and underappreciated at work during the pandemic.

One in four say they have been stuck working in their bedroom while living at home or isolated in flat/house shares with strangers – a situation that is far from perfect. And there’s been little support from their managers. Just 37% of 18-24 year olds say their manager has introduced regular check-ins since working remotely over the last 12 months.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) also say they have been expected to perform urgent tasks outside of working hours – 10% higher than the average of all other age groups over 25. It suggests that some managers expect younger employees to put in extra unpaid hours, and that possibly a lack of experience, confidence, or job security makes it harder for them to refuse.

Alex Arundale, Chief People Officer at Advanced, says: “The pandemic has had a negative impact on all age groups, but it’s 18-24 year-olds who have been hit the hardest. Many young people may struggle with putting together the basics they need to work from home, such as an adequately-sized desk, or even just sufficient peace and quiet from noisy flatmates or other family members. This has made it incredibly difficult for them to separate work from personal life, which is clearly leading to feelings of isolation and cabin-fever.

“Bosses need to double-down on their support for younger employees – especially those who started their very first job during lockdown and have had no in-person onboarding or training. As a minimum, they need to maintain regular contact, offering support and guidance while also boosting confidence and encouraging self-determination. It’s also important that managers do not underestimate the value 18-24 year olds place on social interaction.”

According to the report, 44% of 18-24 year olds are really looking forward to returning to the workplace – compared to 19% for over 25s – and 60% admit social interaction is the main reason for wanting to return to the office. Similarly, 66% say they miss their workplace compared to 38% who miss their personal working space. While most don’t want to return to the office full-time, 54% want to spend half of their time in the office and half at home.

Alex adds: “The younger generation has missed out on a lot of the benefits of office-based working, such as watching more experienced colleagues tackle challenges and peer-to-peer mentoring. So, for those who do want to come into the office, leaders need to take the appropriate steps to make this happen safely. Create work-friendly spaces that will help younger employees to develop their networks and connections and make use of technology, like desk-booking apps, so they can sit near to team-mates, or mentors for appropriate day-to-day support.”

Other key findings:

  • One in five 18-24 year olds say a lack of autonomy and trust from their manager is holding them back from being more productive at work
  • Nearly half (46%) say their boss trusts them to work remotely and be just as productive – if not more – as if they were working in the office
  • Just 4% feel engaged with their boss (compared to 14% of over 25s)
  • 36% want to see their employer provide more communication around wellbeing and mental health

Read the full report here.