In the last 18 months, many would-be office workers have become accustomed to working from home and are set to continue doing so in the future. However, as many people have discovered, staring at the same four walls day and night isn’t always the most conducive when it comes to being productive.
When restrictions began to ease in April, remote workers began looking for a change of scenery. Instead of setting up their laptops in their kitchens, people started working in cafes, co-working spaces and even pubs.
Hotels, breweries, pub chains such as Young’s and Fuller’s began promoting “work from pub” packages aimed at bolstering the struggling hospitality sector. Remote workers and freelancers are offered free WiFi, charging points, quiet spaces and unlimited tea and coffee, plus easy access to post-work pints.
For landlords, these schemes are a way of making up for lost revenue after months spent grappling with the impact of COVID-19, including closures and early shutting times. For workers, it’s a way of escaping the distractions and monotony of working from home.
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“Employers are free to make decisions on acceptable work locations for their employees, which might include a pub or a café. For example, if they are working remotely. Whether this is a good idea or not will depend on the perspective,” says Kate Palmer, HR advice and consultancy director at Peninsula.
“It could be a viable marketing strategy for pubs or hotels who will attract customers on this basis but employers will want to consider issues around WiFi connection, confidentiality, data protection. When work is being conducted in a public space, or in a space not controlled by the employer.”
For some employers, where staff work is less important than whether they get their work done. There are also several potential benefits to working from a pub or cafe too.
When working from home, it can feel like the days merge together into one. However, research suggests a change of scenery or routine can do wonders for your mood, which can in turn boost your productivity.
Last year, researchers from New York University and University of Miami found that having new, diverse experiences every day is linked to positive emotions and enhanced happiness. Even something as simple as introducing variety into our daily routines is enough to increase our sense of wellbeing. With this in mind, heading to a quiet pub for an afternoon of work might be a welcome change.
Working alongside other people, even those you don’t know, can help combat isolation too. According to research by the job board Totaljobs, almost half (46%) of UK workers have experienced loneliness while working from home, with women and younger workers (those aged 18-38) most likely to be affected. Among younger workers, 74% said they had struggled with the social isolation of remote working. Not only did it affect their wellbeing, 37% of those polled said the isolation of working from home also negatively impacted their stress levels too.
However, working in a packed pub won’t be a viable option for some remote workers. Some people cherish the quiet solitude of working from home and find it difficult to work while others chat and relax. Others may find it challenging to concentrate or speak on the phone in a busy environment, particularly if they need to have confidential conversations.
A remote worker or self-employed person may choose not to reveal where they’ve worked for an afternoon, whether it’s a pub or a cafe. Ultimately, though, whether an employer allows workers to set up office outside of their homes is an individual choice.
There is no law that states you have to work from your home, but it is up to each employer to decide what they consider to be acceptable for their remote workers.
“It is within an employer’s power to decide where work can and cannot be done when an employee is not working from the central workplace,” says Palmer. “There will be valid reasons for ruling out some areas, for example, the need to ensure the confidentiality of information and to ensure data is processed correctly.”