United Kingdom

Work from home warning: Being away from the office can make staff LESS creative and LESS productive

Working from home full time poses a long-term threat to the economy, the Bank of England’s chief economist has warned.

Andy Haldane said the pandemic may have triggered the ‘largest shift in working practices ever seen’ in modern times.

Pointing out that he has only ventured in to his office in the City twice in the past six months, he admitted there were advantages to working from home. 

He said there was evidence that many feel happier and more empowered without the daily commute and increased flexibility.

But there was also evidence the shift had made staff less productive, he added, with parents often having to juggle work with childcare and stationed at makeshift desks around the kitchen table.

Bank of England’s chief economist has said working from home full time poses a long-term threat to the economy as it can make staff less creative and productive (stock image)

He also warned the lack of face-to-face interaction with colleagues threatens the creativity needed to ‘fuel economic growth’. 

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show almost a quarter of workers believe their productivity has been negatively affected by home working, compared with 12 per cent who said it has improved.

In a speech, Mr Haldane said the transition to more flexible working strikes a better balance than being tied to the office five days a week.

But he cautioned against full-time home working, arguing it could ultimately make employees less happy, less creative and less productive in the longer term.

In an appeal to firms contemplating closing offices or moving to smaller premises, Mr Haldane said: ‘It is well established that creativity fosters innovation and that in turn fuels economic growth. That was the story of the Industrial Revolution.

‘It is also well established that exposure to new and different experiences – sounds, smells, environments, ideas, people – is a key source of creative spark.

‘The key point here is that home working can starve us of many of these creative raw ingredients – the chance conversation, the new person or idea or environment. 

Home working means serendipity is supplanted by scheduling, face-to-face by Zoom-to-Zoom.

‘Remote working inhibits our ability to cultivate and grow these working relationships. Social capital has been another casualty of the crisis.’

The pandemic may have triggered the ‘largest shift in working practices ever seen’ in modern times. ONS figures show just 60 per cent of adults travelled to work between October 14 and 18. Pictured: A busy Waterloo Station, London

Offices across the country have been emptying again after the Prime Minister changed government guidance last month to urge staff to work at home if they can.

ONS figures show just 60 per cent of adults travelled to work between October 14 and 18, down from 65 per cent from the previous week. 

Meanwhile, the proportion working from home rose to 25 per cent – the highest since August.

‘But they should not jump to the lazy conclusion that staying at home is the right thing to do.’

Joe Fitzsimons, of the Institute of Directors, said: ‘One of the main ways we learn on the job is through impromptu interactions with our colleagues. The rise of remote working clearly raises a big challenge.’

Former Tory party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘For all the talk about missing out on commuting, there is no question that working from home has had a detrimental effect on productivity in the UK.

‘And without that trade from people in offices, many shops and businesses will shut down.’

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