The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a dramatic shift to remote working over the past year, with a large number of people in the UK working from home.
This new way of working has given workers the opportunity to live life in a different way. Fifty-five percent now use their lunch break to focus on their personal life and 56% reported an increase in their levels of happiness working from home.
However, many employees said that they are being stretched further in the work they need to deliver. Nearly one in three (30%) reported an increase in their hours while working from home, and more than half (53%) feel they have to be available at all times.
As a result of these new pressures, 36% of those surveyed said mental health and resilience resources were the most popular options when it came to choosing training to build remote working skills.
Employees miss seeing their colleagues in person, and the opportunity for social interaction is a key driver for people’s decision to go into the office when guidelines allow. For the majority (65%), socialising is what they miss most when they work remotely.
Of those whose organisations have a formal working from home policy. Sixty-three percent disagree they didn’t feel pressure to return to the office, even if guidelines allowed them to do so.
Although firms across the UK are currently taking a digital-first approach, few plan to have a 100% remote workforce for the long term. The likeliest scenario is that most organisations will adopt a hybrid working model, with the workforce split between working remotely and working in the office.
Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the biggest homeworking experiment we have ever seen in the UK. However, this is not homeworking in normal times. Much of this experience has been enforced homeworking and many people have been dealing with a range of additional pressures and anxieties. It is therefore crucial that line managers ensure people are not overworking and provide flexibility and support to anyone struggling with any aspect of working from home.
“Senior leaders need to role model the behaviours they expect of others and businesses focus more on equipping managers with the people management skills they need to manage and support home and remote workers. Employers also need to do more to provide more flexible working opportunities to people whose jobs mean they can’t work from home through greater use of practices such as flexi-time, job sharing and compressed and annualised hours.”
The CIPD recommends four areas of focus for UK organisations and people professionals:
- Support hybrid workers through good people management – Design work processes that suit all locations, concentrating particularly on knowledge-sharing, coordination of work and team relationships to encourage performance and innovation
- Ensure fairness of opportunity – Provide ongoing access to development and career conversations for all employees
- Put health and wellbeing front and centre – Ensure that employees are not overworking and remind them about the importance of maintaining their physical and mental wellbeing and taking regular breaks, fresh air and exercise
- Offer a range of broader flexible working options – Go beyond remote working and look at introducing wider flexible working options like job shares, compressed hours and flexible start and finish times. Support flexibility from the start by recruiting flexibly and making the right to request Flexible Working a day one right.
Howard Lewis, Surface Business Group Lead at Microsoft UK, said: “Flexible working has taken on a whole new meaning, with remote work suddenly feeling ‘the norm’. Employees have been empowered to think about where and how they are most productive, while employers have been tasked with ensuring the devices they provide to their organisations are fit for today’s purpose. The ability to successfully support remote operations and distributed teams is now indispensable for business resilience and innovation, with technology playing a vital part.”
The Work Smarter to Live Better research saw more than 4,000 UK office workers surveyed online via a YouGov survey, in addition to in-depth interviews with senior business leaders from across the UK. The findings have been analysed in partnership with the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development.
The full report is available from Microsft's website.
The total sample size was 4,282 employees surveyed that work in an office, of which there were 2,863 that work in an office and work from home. Fieldwork was undertaken between October 27 and November 5, 2020. The survey was carried out online.