It’s official: on 15 February the government’s advice to mainly work from home was withdrawn. The new recommendation is going back to the office at most half of the working week. Although this represents good news in general, as it means that the Covid crisis is somewhat controlled, most employees are already longing for one thing from the pandemic: working from home.
Great desire to work from home
CNV trade union surveyed more than 900 members who had worked from home during the pandemic. The results showed that 91% of the respondents want to continue working from home, or at least don’t want to go to the office for the whole week. However, one in three workers said that their boss would ask them to go back to the office when the government officially removed the advice to work from home.
According to the survey, two in three workers indicated that they are more productive at home, and 58% claim to have a better work-life balance. Moreover, 43% stated to have more motivation and better health at home, while one in three say they are also more creative.
Nevertheless, the positives also come with their disadvantages. These include some psychological complaints; for example, 45% of home workers said they feel lonelier. Also, 26% lack the appropriate conditions to work from home, such as a good desk chair or screen. Related to this may be that 17% have physical issues, such as sore arms or shoulders, and back and neck problems.
Some workers show dissatisfaction with their employer’s current home-working policies. Therefore, CNV emphasizes employers’ lack of vision for a long-term plan on the subject and wants to fight for employees’ legal rights. “The home-working policy of many employers is in dire straits: no long-term vision, often no cost-effective home-working allowance, and the physical and mental support leaves much to be desired, this study shows. This attitude of employers is unwise and a waste of capital, especially in such a tight labour market,” says CNV chairman Piet Fortuin.
Pros vs cons
There are several factors to consider when deciding the viability and extent of working from home. For instance, Patrick van Oppen, director of Amsterdam law firm Loyens & Loeff, expressed how the work from home advice proved to be very limiting to its business, so he was looking forward to the relaxation. As a positive point to the office come-back, he highlighted the need for young people to be in the office. “Young people, in particular, feel the need to come to the office; they can also learn from working with more experienced colleagues. If you have just started with us and after a year have only been to the office a few times, that’s different than the regular office experience.”
On the other hand, right now there isn’t a law regulating the right to work from home, making things harder for employees. Whether an employee works in the office or at home is for the employer to decide; if the employer disagrees with the employee’s request to work from home, the boss may deny it and force the employee to come to the office.
Is meeting halfway possible? Is there an approach that would make everyone happy in the matter? The Cabinet thinks so. Minister of Social Affairs Karien van Gennip says that a 50/50 split could prove to be a “healthy balance”.
The Cabinet is still formulating an official advice on working from home. Still, in the end, Van Gennip believes that the matter is a discussion that employees, employers, unions and industry organizations should have between them.
In the meantime, some businesses already have a work from home policy. For instance, ING employees are primarily working from home, and even with the government’s advice changing, they planned on continuing hybrid working. Other banks like Rabobank, ABN Amro and Volksbank agree on the hybrid work practice as the best route for now.
It remains to be seen how things will turn out, but it’s a fact that Covid-19 was a catalyst for a change in work matters. Whatever shape it takes, working from home is here to stay.
Written by Bárbara Luque Alanís