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Working from home has been made necessary due to the global pandemic, but unsurprisingly, it has quickly become the preferred mode of operation of the modern workplace. Its advantages have blazed the trail in a steady upwards trend, and according to new research by Bupa Global, the effects have also climbed up the ladder to become favourably adopted by high-ranking executives!
Due to the constraints of Covid-19, the landscape of work has seen a geographical shift, resulting in a greater number of individuals who now work remotely. Mason Donovan, managing partner for international consulting practice The Dagoba Group and author of The Golden Apple: Redefining Work-Life Balance for a Diverse Workforce, notes that “pre-Covid-19, many executives could not see beyond their own experience of working in an office environment.” Defined as a movement from the bottom up, a lot of executives have begun to adopt the work-from-home model for themselves as well.
It should come as no surprise that less time spent commuting and more time spent with family are just a few newfound benefits that many of us would prefer to keep. This is a sentiment that is reflected across the board, as uncovered by the Bupa Global Executive Wellbeing Index in a study of working habits amongst 2,000 senior executives based all over the world. It was discovered that over half of executives did not wish to return to the same hyper-speed working life following the lifting of pandemic restrictions, a figure that totals up to six in 10 chief executives.1
Donavan posits that “the pandemic shutdown imposed a remote working situation for everyone. By all accounts shown to date, productivity did not suffer, which has changed the attitude towards a more progressive remote workforce opportunity.”
Collin Leckey, partner at commercial law firm Lewis Silkin, which has offices in Hong Kong and the UK, adds that “like billions of others, Covid-19 made the decision for me. But there is no doubt at all that in my industry—law—as in many others, we have proved to ourselves that we can run our practices and our businesses perfectly effectively from our homes.”
Diving into the upsides that come with this shift, Leckey paints a picture of the variety of benefits, “from big ones like cutting out the crowded commute with your face wedged into someone else’s armpit and getting to spend more time with your family instead, to smaller ones like it no longer being a major logistical exercise if you need to arrange for someone to be in if a parcel is being delivered or if a tradesperson needs to come round.”
A less explored change that is surprisingly valuable is the benefit to your health. In early 2020, the BMC Public Health journal had surveyed up to 32,000 working adults to find out how their quality of health measured up against their work-life balance. It was reported that those who worked longer, with worse habits of keeping work separate from personal life, generally fared worse when it came to their health.2 However, Bupa Global also discovered that 16 percent of executives discourage their employees from working outside designated hours in a bid to raise up their quality of life.3
According to Dr Pablo Vandenabeele, clinical director of mental health at Bupa Global, boundaries have long been essential and incredibly beneficial: “For a long time, we have seen that the digitalisation of work has caused us to blur the boundaries between private and work life. Execs struggle to refrain from answering emails last thing at night and first thing in the morning.”
On top of that, the benefits also end up rolling over towards the clients’ ends. With his office work switching towards an online model, Donovan has discovered that “travel, especially international travel, which accounted for 50 percent of our work, would absorb 40 percent of our work time, which means, 100 percent of our work time can be devoted to working with our clients as well as reducing the stress on our consultants. Plus, every morning and night can be spent at home with our families.”
This trend is apparent amongst companies worldwide, as proven by Bupa Global, showing that many executives who had previously spent at least an average of 48 days or time overnight abroad away from family in 2019 are looking to cut down on business travel for both personal and environmental reasons when Covid-19 restrictions subside.
A whopping one in four—or 26 percent—of the group had put their plan into action and set the intention to put an end to time spent away from home in the year following the study.4 Facebook Reality Labs director Yaser Sheikh foresees that rather than taking to the skies, more and more people will turn to virtual reality.
Technology has been a saving grace in recent times, and have led to interesting developments in forming connections. Despite not having had an in-person meeting with a client since before lockdown, Leckey explains that he had miraculously seen his clients “face-to-face” more often through platforms such as BlueJeans, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other mediums of communication.
Adding to the observation he says, “It’s really interesting to me that we’ve defaulted to video conference calls with clients whereas in the office, we’d have used the telephone—in many ways, this makes it easier to build more meaningful relationships with contacts, now [that] we’re seeing the insides of their homes and they ours.”
In fact, Dr Vandenabeele stresses the importance of these types of social relationships in building a healthy sense of identity. Stating a simple solution, he recommends that “this can be done by ensuring you have daily (and ideally at a similar time) periods whereby you go out of the house and engage with the world, but also ensure that some degree of social connections with colleagues is maintained.”
With these changes becoming adopted by a greater number of companies, the future looks bright. Sheldon Kenton, managing director of Bupa Global, believes that “the changing way we do business, a chance to reflect on our familial as well as environmental responsibilities, helps set a blueprint for greater well-being in years to come.”
Leckey thinks we will be seeing a shift towards a hybridised remote and in-person form of working: “I imagine there’ll nearly always be a video joining option for any meeting of significance. Long-term, I think it’s going to be about getting the balance right at an individual level. I think most people will want to spend about half their time working from home and about half their time in work with their colleagues, but there will be individuals at the extremes of the spectrum on either side, and there is no reason why we shouldn’t accommodate personal preferences as far as possible.”
Furthering the vision, Dr Vandenabeele adds a reminder that “in order to make working from home a success, it’s important to maintain the boundary between work and private life.” We can learn to make necessary adjustments by separating the physical space of work and personal time, not necessarily in separate rooms, but even only in the form of a desk, in addition to maintaining set hours as you would in the workplace—lunch breaks included. Sharing your schedule and communicating with your cohabitants is the key to finding an arrangement and rhythm that is viable for everyone involved.
All of these ideas may seem a lot to take in all at once, but help is not out of reach. All Bupa Global customers can enjoy the Global Virtual Care (GVC) services, which provides confidential access via telephone or video call to an international cohort of doctors. With twenty-four-seven availability on virtual appointments in multiple languages, speaking to a doctor has never been so easy and efficient. More details can be found by visiting the Bupa Global Covid-19 information hub.
Also ready for use is the Healthline service, which provides general medical information on Covid-19 as well as mental and physical medical conditions. You can seek advice from health professionals or referrals for a second-step verification and alternate medical opinion. In the case that you are accessing Bupa Global schemes through your employer, you and your family may be entitled to the Employee Assistance Programme, which opens up the doors of Bupa Global customers to trained healthcare professionals to speak to online any time of day, any day of the year. It covers not only work issues, but also life and personal concerns as well, discussed by way of phone, email, or alternate online means.
The GVC and second medical opinion service are part of Advance Medical, a Teladoc Health Company. Everyday Resources is provided by Workplace Options LLC. Both are service providers for Bupa Global, meaning Bupa Global is not responsible for any actions or omissions carried out by these third parties in the provision of said services.
2 Mensah, A., Adjei, N.K. Work-life balance and self-reported health among working adults in Europe: a gender and welfare state regime comparative analysis. BMC Public Health 20, 1052 (2020).