HOMES across the district have served as makeshift offices for six months now.

A practice which was once considered a temporary measure has become the norm. Yet according to a new report from the work-life balance charity Working Families, it has been proven to be just as productive.

Out of 26 employers surveyed, all but one said that productivity levels had been maintained, or even improved, since lockdown was imposed on the UK back in March.

The charity’s Jane van Zyl said: “Employers have realised flexibility is possible in many more jobs than they had ever considered before. It’s clear our employer members have found ways to improve their flexible working practices and offer much needed support to parents and carers, while improving performance overall.”

Working from home, or remote working, as it has become known, has been a slow burner for some time.

Two decades ago it was an activity adopted by many office workers when they were overburdoned with tasks. Work could be carried out on a word processing document or spreadsheet, perhaps during a day off or at the weekend, and taken into the office on a Monday morning.

This was succeeded by the art of emailing assignments oneself, as staff kept on top of their day-to-day assignments.

Now it’s very different. This very article is being written from home, on a dedicated work computer with access to everything which was once only available in the workplace itself.

Cloud-based systems enable employees to log-into their dedicated work software or programmes, and update everything from databases to websites - all from the comfort of their own home.

Advancements in technology have even made daily conferencing from home commonplace. Whether or not we activate our camera and show our faces, we can hold meetings with colleagues while sat in our home dining rooms or spare bedrooms.

In the past it was never really considered a viable substitute for office life, where conversations by the water cooler, or in the kitchen, were regular occurrences. It’s still relatively early days, of course, but many businesses are already reaping the benefits of remote working. With productivity at least maintained, savings are being made in terms of overheads, while employees who can stay at home are being safeguarded against Covid-19.

If the practice becomes the norm once the pandemic is over, however, there will be challenges ahead.

Teams currently meeting electronically are predominantly made up of colleagues who were known to each other back in March. But as workforces change, could we be working with, and communicating virtually with people we’ve never actually met in person?

Whatever lies ahead, surely there’s a case for employers to hold at least occasional meetings face-to-face. Even if office premises become a thing of the past, there will surely be merit in meeting up in some form or another.

Another key factor of the last six months has been mental health. For many people, working from home is more flexible, while time and money have been saved in the absence of a commute. But for others, it has been a difficult balancing act to create a work environment in a house already populated by other family members.

A lack of interaction with colleagues and the outside world is also a factor which will need to be addressed long term.