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More people could continue to work from home when lockdown is over

A Medway mum has admitted working from home during lockdown has given her the chance to really get to know her own children.

Like many working parents, she had to juggle the daily commute with raising a family and used to miss out on sports days and parents evenings - until the global pandemic gave her, and many others, a chance to experience a different way of life.

Lockdown created a 'trial by fire' for home working being a practical option for employees - and it has seemed to have passed
Lockdown created a 'trial by fire' for home working being a practical option for employees - and it has seemed to have passed

So will more people continue to work from home after lockdown?

The working mum

Oke Jacobs lives in Lordswood and used to travel to London four days a week. She said: "I've been a single parent for many years now. I have always worked, so I've never really been able to spend time with the kids."

The 36-year-old director of OS Jacobs & Co added: "Since lockdown started, it's been good getting to observe while they learn, play and have deep conversations. They were teaching me to ride a bike the other day. I've gotten to know my kids better."

Before lockdown, the mother-of-two would only know what was going on at school through reports and what her daughters told her - she didn't know other mums on the school run and sometimes didn't recognise her daughter's teachers.

"Working from home is great as I have time to drop the kids off at school, get a feel for what's going on in the play ground, then pick them up later," she said.

"It really helps to have balance and you don't feel so guilty.

"Usually I would have to exclude the kids from their activities because there is no one to take them there. But now I can take them and just work on the laptop in the car.

"The only con is, if you don't keep control of those hours they all go to work. I've had to find the discipline to not turn the laptop on until 9am as there's always something to do."

She also gets to keep the £500 a month she would usually spend travelling for four hours a day to London and now has the chance to work wherever she likes; at home, the library or the garden.

Oke Jacobs enjoying a walk with her two daughters
Oke Jacobs enjoying a walk with her two daughters

What the stats say

According to a recent survey by video conferencing app company StarLeaf, around 60% of the workforce would like to work from home more often after lockdown is lifted and 25% would be happy to go into the office just once a week.

Only half of respondents saw their productivity change, with 24% getting less work done and 25% getting more work done.

The business experts

Jo James is the chief executive of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce and believes both businesses and employees can benefit from working from home more. She said: "Offering a more flexible approach to work creates a much more productive and happy workforce.

"Some people do prefer the more relaxed atmosphere at home. There's no doubt some people can be far more productive this way, because they don't have the added distractions from the office."

She feels, in the past, businesses have always worked on finding a work-life balance, but coronavirus has taught business work can be done perfectly well remotely.

This is echoed by Josh Davis, network manager for The Education Company in Sittingbourne, who says the lockdown created a "trial by fire" for home working.

He said: "Getting people to work from home can be initially challenging for several reasons. You have to physically get colleagues' computers set up - with some less tech savvy than others. I had to show them how to set up a PC from scratch and in some cases had to set it up for them to take in their car.

"It put strain on our workforce to get everyone set up on our network from outside of the building. But now it is done there is little difference to them being in the building and in the office. The only issue now is internet strength in people's homes."

Ben Towers, 21, is setting up Tahora - a platform to help colleagues form social groups
Ben Towers, 21, is setting up Tahora - a platform to help colleagues form social groups

The entrepreneur

There are some concerns that an increase in home working could lead to more people feeling isolated.

Medway entrepreneur, Ben Towers, is setting up a platform called Tahora, which will help like-minded colleges form social groups in their workplaces.

He said: "42% of people say they have no close friends in their workplace. Social isolation and lack of community is one of the leading causes of ill mental health.

"This was a problem before lockdown and now the issue has just been shifted. When some are at home while others are in the office it is easy to feel isolated or not part of what's going on.

"We need to make sure people don't feel excluded and bring people together so they know they're not going to work alone, they're going to work knowing they have people around them."

Kent roads have seen 75% less cars on them since the start of lockdown
Kent roads have seen 75% less cars on them since the start of lockdown

Impact on the environment

A study published in the Nature Climate Change journal this week suggested carbon dioxide emissions had fallen by 17% in early April.

It's the sharpest drop since records began and the study showed when lockdown was most stringent in the UK emissions fell by 26%.

It was the first study on carbon output this year and suggests the quieter roads are helping the environment.

A spokesperson for Kent County Council said: “With people now working from home, the number of cars on our roads has dropped by around 75% since lockdown began and subsequently we do not see the normal rush-hour peak which can lead to congestion.

“At this stage, we expect the levels of traffic - around 60% of normal levels - we have seen over the last week to be the new normal for a while longer."

Various borough councils across the county - including Sevenoaks, Thanet, Maidstone and Dover - are also seeing air pollution drop from anywhere between 12% and 50% because of reduced traffic.

Truck routes in Dover have seen a 40% to 50% decrease of nitrogen dioxide in the air.

Join the debate - will you be working from home more after lockdown? post a comment below.

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