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Company directors split on benefits of working from home

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Working from home is here to stay, but businesses are not convinced that it is improving productivity.

In a survey of 600 businesses, the Institute of Directors found that more than 60 per cent planned to adopt hybrid working practices even after restrictions ease.

The institute said that 20 per cent of companies were not planning to introduce any form of remote working, while only 10 per cent had moved completely towards working at home.

Rates of home working have risen since the first lockdown in March last year. Official figures show that 35.9 per cent of the workforce did some work at home last year, an annual rise of 9.4 percentage points.

Although the shift towards remote working is set to become a permanent change, businesses and economists are not clear about its benefits.

Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JP Morgan, the American investment bank, warned last year that the negative effects of home working were being felt “more and more” the longer that staff stayed at home. He said that “spontaneous creativity” was suffering and that new starters and younger workers were missing out on learning opportunities.

The Bank of England has warned that more home working could weigh on productivity because it might damage the quality of collaboration and communication between staff.

However, Michael Saunders, an external member of the Bank’s rate-setting monetary policy committee, said that a persistent increase in working from home “may well actually support potential output over time”.

The institute said that business leaders were split on whether working from home was more or less productive. It said that 40 per cent believed their staff were more productive at home, while 37 per cent felt their workforce was less productive.

Joe Fitzsimons, senior policy adviser at the institute, said: “Despite the advantages, remote working has not been without its challenges. For business leaders, running a tight ship has not been easy without workforces in the same physical space.

“This is not helped by unreliable internet connections. Employee morale has been affected with the loss of office camaraderie and adjusting to new roles has been difficult for new staff.”

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