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After 1 ½ years of the pandemic, people are leaving their home offices and are allowed to return to their usual workspace. But many of the new remote workers don’t feel like going back to business as usual. Working from home represents an unprecedented “turning point” in the way we currently work and will work in the future. How can companies as well as employees find suitable solutions for remote work? With these four conditions:
- Teleworking must be voluntary
Every crisis passes at some point. So did the Corona crisis and with it the home office. Well, not quite: 70 percent of all employees who had to switch to a home office as a result of the pandemic say they still want to work from home. Not permanently, but the desire for a few days a week without commuting and morning traffic jams is great. And more than a third, 37 percent, of all jobs in Europe can theoretically be done from the home office. Nevertheless, teleworking can be an enormous psychological burden for employees if it is not chosen voluntarily. After all, not everyone likes to work mostly alone and from home. Not everyone can concentrate well within their own four walls or switch off after work. In the future, therefore, teleworking must be equally desired by companies and employees. And trust and autonomy must be given greater weight than permanent control by superiors.
- Private and work life must be separated
People who work from home life and work in the same place. As a result, work and leisure time become much more intermingled than before. The big risk in the home office: the boundaries between private and professional life become so fluid at some point that they are difficult to separate. The assumption that they have to be reachable all the time is also a burden for many employees. Supervisors often call their employees well after regular working hours or interrupt their lunch break. Eurofound figures speak volumes: between 24% and 44% of European workers* have worked in lockdown at least once a week in their free time. The difficulties in drawing clear dividing lines lead to more stress and less time with the family.
France, for example, is trying to find a solution. In 2016, it became the first country in Europe to pass a law on the right to be unavailable…. According to this law, employees must be allowed not to have to connect to digital devices outside working hours and not be contacted by their employers.
- Show me your home office and I’ll tell you who you are
Who hasn’t experienced it: at the kitchen table, professional files pile up with the dirty dishes from lunch. In Zoom meetings, you look in vain for a “professional” appearing background. Few employees who have been forced into the home office by the pandemic find a suitable workplace at home. Ergonomic chairs, a suitable work laptop or even a work desk that has a height that is easy on the back: Not everyone automatically has all this at home. At a regular workplace, this “luxury” must be provided by the employer.
With the onset of teleworking in spring 2020, many have found themselves in a new and unfamiliar setting. More than half of all “teleworkers” did not work from home before the pandemic. And most companies had little experience doing so either. In the short term, they introduced home-office contracts and the consequences were anything but employee-friendly: from inadequate equipment to unrealistic expectations and a lack of support from management towards employees.
- Collegial relationships must be kept alive
Home office may have its benefits, but collegial exchanges on Zoom definitely don’t compare to a real-life meeting or gossip in the coffee kitchen. Every fifth worker reports feeling more lonely than before due to the pandemic and home office. One of the most important points for home office to succeed is that interpersonal relationships can be maintained beyond the physical office. Here, employers have a responsibility to create new and creative opportunities for collegial networking. Since team building is an essential part of a functioning company, this must continue to be part of regular working hours and must not be sidelined by the home office.
Voluntariness, a good work-life-balance, suitable office equipment and collegial relationships are essential for successful remote work. If you adhere to these four basic conditions, you can be sure that your employees will be able to perform well, if not better than before the pandemic, from home. Let’s use the new working style in a way that benefits everyone. The companies AND the working people.
Iceland has undertaken the largest trial of a 4-day-week, globally. It has been such an outstanding success that 86 percent of Iceland’s employees have either already adopted it, or at least have the possibility of working shorter hours. This experiment has shown that working shorter hours while getting paid full wages is beneficial for both the employees, by improving their health, happiness, and productivity, as well as the employer, as it produces positive economic results and greater profits.
One percent of Iceland’s employees worked shorter hours
In 2015, due to pressure from the public and the labour union, the government of Iceland and the municipal council of Reykjavík initiated the worldwide most extensive experiment on reduced working hours. Over the period of four years, 2.500 employees from 100 enterprises worked an average of 35 to 36 hours instead of 40 hours, while getting paid in full. This trial was extremely successful, leading to a change in work-time regulations.
This trial included over one percent of Iceland’s labour force, working in various occupational groups. Childcare and nursing homes were as much part of the experiment as hospitals, schools, service centres, or public/municipal administration offices. Moreover, this also involved “nine to five”- jobs as well as shift-work. After two years of academic research and evaluation of results, it became clear that a reduction of working hours is not only possible but beneficial to all.
Gudmundur Haraldsson, researcher of the British think tank ALDA (European Association for Local Democracy), states that: “the Icelandic shorter working week journey tells us that not only is it possible to work less in modern times but that progressive change is possible too.”
4-day-week increases happiness, health, and productivity
It was identified that employees with reduced work hours experienced less stress and the risk of burnouts decreased. They felt happier, were able to spend more time on recreational activities, housekeeping, hobbies, be more active and spend extra time with their family. All of this did not interfere with the quality or productivity of their work. On the contrary, in most cases, they performed equally as well, or better and got things done quicker.
This can be attributed to the fact that employees are more focused and efficient. The government and municipal administration did not have additional expenses, as the trial was cost-neutral.
Will Stronge, research director at Autonomy – a think tank investigating the Icelandic experiment, states in summary: “This study shows that the world’s largest ever trial of a shorter working week in the public sector was an overwhelming success and it shows that the public sector is ready for being a pioneer of shorter working weeks – and lessons can be learned for other governments.”
Iceland as a model for other countries
More and more countries are open to experimenting and testing shorter work hours. Spain announced a similar country-wide trial of a 4-day-week in spring. Up to 6.000 workers will participate over a three-year period. Companies in New Zealand and East-Tyrol have also reported their successful attempts.
The Icelandic study has already had a considerable impact. Since the end of the trial, many labour unions have negotiated new work-time regulations. 86 percent of their workforce are working reduced hours or at least have the possibility of doing so.
“A shorter work-week is the future, there is no going back” says a participant of the study.
Knitting is one of the most popular hobbies which has had a big comeback recently with knitting groups set up all over the country.
You would be surprised how easy it is to knit something as simple as a scarf or cushion covers, blankets etc and these are also some of the easiest things to sell. Once you’ve mastered the scarf, you can move onto bags, cushion covers, and blankets, with just a few rectangles stitched together and a button here and there, they’re very satisfying to make.
You can buy cheap wool from charity shops, eBay and some magazines give freebies or simply undo a jumper that you do not like anymore.
If you are ready to make a living from your craft then Kari Chapin’s book ‘Grow Your Handmade Business’, will help by applying her trademark you-can-do-it coaching style to the nuts and bolts of entrepreneurship and covering all the issues involved in turning your creative hobby into a successful business.
Kari draws the reader up through successive layers of consciousness, moving steadily toward that crucial juncture where “what you do”and”how you think”are absolutely in harmony. It is right at this point where you can grow your business, just as if you were tending a garden. There’s no mystery to the process, just a vigilant management of many tasks, all of which work together toward simple sustainability.”
This book is the follow up from the successful The Handmade Market Place. That book was aimed at people new to selling handmade this one is more about achieving long term business goals. The main focus of the book is on business planning, and writing a business plan.
A great book for someone interested in making their craft into a business and available from Amazon and other good book publishers.