The last year has changed our perception of work forever. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in the most recent lockdown 36% of adults in the UK were working from home, the highest figure since March 2020. Of these, statistics from the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) showed that 32% of these workers were not cheerful or in good spirits about the idea.
Sarah van Dort, 52, once had concerns about working from home. As a personal stylist, her job requires plenty of human interaction as she offers makeovers, one-on-one shopping trips, and personal colour analyses. When she realised that she would no longer be able to meet her clients in person, she initially had concerns how her business would stay afloat. “At the beginning, it was absolute panic,” said van Dort. “I was like, ‘my goodness, what am I going to do’ but that lasted probably only a few days, really. I then rallied myself around and told myself to get on with it.”
Working from home hasn’t been entirely bad; IES reported that working from home had a positive effect for both work and lifestyle, with 37% of people mentioning working from home as being motivational for them.
“I learned how to use Zoom, I taught myself a way of doing my styling and colour online… That was a challenge really, because I’d never even had a Skype call before,” said van Dort. “But Zoom’s actually pretty good. You can still have a really nice conversation with somebody and it’s got a lot of work benefits to it.”
“I think there’s more time for working on your business and it’s helped me develop new programs and new market strategies,” she said. “But I think it’s given me a lot of time to really think about what I want out of my business and to research to structure it better.”
At the time of writing, lockdown restrictions are steadily easing away, and yet 26% of UK residents plan to continue working from home permanently or occasionally post-lockdown. With van Dort’s career flourishing from home, she’s planning to stay at home afterwards as well.
“Instead of taking people shopping, I now offer them a shopping experience where we’ll have a chat about what they want or need,” she said. “Then I’ll do a couple of hours shopping online, report back to them and show everything that I found.”
Charlene Douglas, 40, has also had her fair share of early doubts, but now sees the benefits from working from home. As one of the only Black psychosexual therapists in the UK, she had worried that less people would be seeking her services. At first, this seemed to be the case: “There was a period where there weren’t as many clients, that was probably the very beginning of lockdown last March,” said Douglas. “And everyone has said, ‘you’ve probably got loads of people coming your way,’ but I think it was a period of shock and struggle for lots of people. I think people were maybe reluctant to spend money on therapy because they were trying to work out how they were going to survive this.”
However, after the initial hysteria of the pandemic died down, Douglas was able to start offering her services again, but to a larger audience now that she was online. “There are clients that I’ve never met over the last 12 months that have started and finished with me online, and the issues either been resolved, or they felt there’s been enough progress in therapy. It works and I don’t see myself going back to face-to-face after lockdown to be honest.”
Douglas also started to realise the importance of self-care, as she mentioned incorporating more exercise, meditation, and just an actual breather in-between her appointments.
“There were periods of time over the last 12 months where I really valued just being with myself and not having to give as much in terms of running to meetings and appointments… And to look inward a little bit, you give a lot in this job, so it was nice to be in a position where you can finally give to yourself.”
Follow our These 4 Walls series this week to find out more about what happened behind closed doors during this pandemic. #These4Walls