Productivity, Environment and Habits: How Have Our Working Days Changed Since All We Left the Office?

As COVID-19 put the country into lockdown, most of us were forced to pack our laptops, keyboards, and office chairs into our cars and head for home. Working from home, a luxury once afforded to a lucky few, quickly became the normal routine for everyone in the UK as we adapted to our new work environment. There are both positives and negatives to working from home, with many changes to what we are used to at the office. At Furniture at Work, we wanted to find out if these changes have had a positive or negative impact on people’s working lives. To answer this, we surveyed 2,000 UK workers who have worked from home throughout the pandemic, questioning them on their productivity, working habits, home office and more. The results of our research are found below.

Putting in the Extra Hours 

Without the usual 9-5 routine of the office, we wanted to find out if people were using the time they save on commuting to put in some extra hours or whether their new-found freedom meant they could have an earlier finish. We found that over half (52%) of UK workers say they now work longer hours when working from home, with just 25% saying their working day has got shorter. Most say they have been working later into the evening, with 49% saying they have worked late more since leaving the office.

Not only have people been working longer days, but they’re also working a considerable amount of additional time. Three-quarters (75%) of the employees who said they have been working longer hours say they work over three hours extra each week, with 45% saying they work over five hours more than they used to in the office. If you base these figures on the average weekly wage in the UK of £585, some employees could be providing free labour and missing out on £4,785.30 a year.

Finding a Productive Workspace

Not only are people working longer hours since we have been working from home, but most also said they feel more productive during those hours too. Surrounded by distractions such as young children, house jobs and the television, and without the watchful eye of their manager, over half (53%) of workers say they feel they have been more productive since they began working from home. This compares to 39% who said they feel more productive working in the office. This increase of productivity comes in spite of the fact that just 46% say they actually sit at a home office desk when working from home, with other common home office settings including the kitchen table (27%) and the sofa (15%).

Admin and creative jobs are the types of tasks that people have found easier since working from home. 57% feel they’re more productive with admin work at home rather than the office, and 56% said the same for creative tasks. The main barrier with working from home is we can no longer chat face-to-face with colleagues, and this was highlighted in our research. 67% of respondents said they feel more productive carrying out collaborative tasks in the office.  

Avoiding Distractions at Home

Our offices are designed to help people stay focused and be creative – the same can’t be said for our makeshift home offices. Working from home throws up some expected challenges; having to balance your schedule with the school run, avoiding doing housework or watching the television when it’s right there in front of you can be difficult. This too was highlighted in our results and might help explain why many of us have found we are working more hours each week. To find out if UK workers have given into temptation, we asked them if they had done any of the following during work hours:

  • Prepared a meal 54%
  • Laundry 53%
  • Online shopping 50%
  • Washed the dishes 49%
  • Watched TV 47%
  • Chatted on the phone 41%
  • Cleaned the house – 40%
  • Exercised – 35%
  • Gone shopping – 23%
  • Had sex – 15%
  • Played on a games console – 13%
  • Had an alcoholic drink – 12%

It seems like many of us are guilty of being distracted at home, with some even going as far as playing on the Xbox or grabbing a beer from the fridge. We took this one step further by asking how long people spend doing each of these things throughout the working day. We found that on average, Brits spend over an hour (60.8 minutes) watching television, more than half an hour (32.6 minutes) exercising and 16.3 minutes going to the toilet during working hours. Based on 252 working days a year, this would mean we spend 33.6 of those days watching television and 9.2 days on the toilet.

It wouldn’t be working from home without talking about online calls and, on average, UK workers spend 59 minutes each day in online meetings. Our data also received some shocking truths about what we get up to during these online meetings. Making use of the no video and mute buttons, 35% confessed to eating, 29% have prepared a hot drink, 21% have been to the toilet and 19% have even online shopped during a work call – things we may not have got away with in the office. With all these distractions at home, it may not come as a surprise that some of us are having to work an extra hour or two each day to make up for sneaking in an episode of our favourite TV programme.

Overall, we have adapted quickly to working from home and it has been seen as a positive by most of the UK workforce. We are willing to work longer hours and have been more productive during those hours aside from the odd distraction. The main benefits of working from home listed by our respondents were no daily commute (78%) and saving money (70%). With such positive feedback, working from home could be something companies consider permanently in the future, helping us retain this productivity and find that perfect work-life balance.