Prime minister Boris Johnson’s announcement earlier this week declaring that employees should return to working from home if they are able to do so represented a sharp u-turn from his previous focus on returning staff to offices around the UK. With some organisations in the process of returning staff to an office environment, and others in the throes of preparation to do so, this latest development represented yet another change in direction. So, what does this latest announcement mean for your workforce?
For some organisations, which had already extended their remote-working policies in to 2021, or even on a more permanent basis, the answer may be ‘not a great deal’.
Others, however, may be reviewing the lessons learned during the first period of remote working, and looking at what they could potentially do differently this time round. Research published this week by The Workforce Institute at UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group), which surveyed more than 3,900 employees and business leaders across 11 countries, found that just a fifth (20%) felt their organisation met their needs during the initial phases of the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. In the UK, the most common complaints were that employees wished their employer had acted with greater empathy towards staff, and that communications had been carried out sooner and more openly; both cited by 31%.
Employers should also bear in mind that not all employees will have a home environment in which working long term is conducive to supporting good mental wellbeing. Individuals who are working in a cramped space, or who live alone with a fear of being isolated from friends and family once again should local or national lockdown measures be imposed, may well report heightened levels of stress or anxiety, for example. Individuals may not feel comfortable sharing such concerns with their employer, so ensuring that support is available and well communicated is vital.
Burnout and working hours are also a concern for a significant portion of the UK workforce. The Workforce Institute’s research also found that 42% of UK respondents said their biggest concern was balancing their workload to avoid burnout. In addition, just over half (52%) of UK respondents said their organisation has taken some measures to protect employees against burnout. More than a third (39%) of the business leaders surveyed, however, said the ability to help employees balance workloads to avoid burnout or fatigue is one of their top three concerns in the coming 18 months.
With the unpredictable and unprecedented nature of the pandemic continuing to impact how businesses operate, the ability to adapt to, and support staff during, shifting circumstances will continue to be a key priority for employers in the coming months.