Three-quarters of businesses that have introduced more home working because of the pandemic say their staff are just as productive or even more productive compared to being in the workplace full time.

Just 22% of businesses surveyed by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Hub thought workers were less productive, whereas twice that number – 44% – felt their employees were just as productive when working from home.

One in three businesses felt they actually got more out of their staff when they worked from home, with 37% saying they intended to allow staff to work more flexibly in the future.

The survey was conducted by the Growth Hub among businesses in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to gauge how coronavirus has changed business practices, and to what extent those changes may become permanent.

The Growth Hub offers free and impartial help to new and established businesses in Cornwall and Scilly by signposting them to support and advice and is using the results of the survey to inform future business support.

The survey found that one in five businesses using home working said they were happy, within reason, for staff to structure their own day, including starting and finishing earlier. The same number either had or intended to introduce a flexible working policy.

Less time commuting, a reduction in travel expenses and savings on workplace costs like utilities and supplies were all cited as benefits of homeworking, together with a wider potential pool for recruitment.

But the downsides of homeworking included less team cohesion, less ability to manage staff performance, fewer opportunities for training and development, and increased human resources (HR) issues.

And the jury is out on whether home working is a good or bad thing for creativity, with 22% saying home working teams were less creative, and 20% saying they were more creative.

Kirsty Miles-Musgrave, communications manager at the Growth & Skills Hub, said: “There’s been an interesting debate around productivity and home working during the pandemic and I think a lot of businesses who might have feared its impact have actually embraced it because they’ve seen how it can enhance performance and give people a better work-life balance.

“But there are some alarm bells, especially when it comes to training and development and managing staff, with just one in five businesses planning to keep home working having any formal policy in place.

“Our job at the Growth Hub is to help businesses through these potential pitfalls and point them in the right direction when it comes to support and advice, and our survey has given us a fascinating insight into changing business practices.”

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