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Employers say no to permanent remote working

Employees hoping for full-time remote work in 2021 are unlikely to get their wish, as almost two thirds of employers flag productivity concerns.


While widespread working from home is one of the most significant outcomes of Covid-19, many senior leaders remain committed to a ‘bums on seats’ approach, according to the findings from recruiter Robert Walters 2021 Salary Survey, which canvasses the views of 2,000 UK professionals.

Despite 35% of professionals reporting an increase in productivity whilst working from home, an overwhelming 64% of employers flagged that concerns around employee productivity are a key barrier to long term remote working.



Other key challenges highlighted by employers include workers experiencing mental health issues on account of social isolation or economic anxiety (35%), and managers’ ability to oversee virtual teams and autonomous work (33%). However, 58% of UK professionals expressed their desire to move to full-time remote working, with a further 30% wanting to work remotely at least half of the time.



Lucy Bisset, Director at Robert Walters comments: “2020 was the year of the world’s largest remote working experiment, and employers would be amiss to think that there wouldn’t be some long-term changes to employee expectations as a result.



“Whilst the pandemic did not necessarily bring about entirely new trends in working style, it certainly fast-tracked the inevitable around flexible working – speeding the transition up by as much as five to 10 years for some companies. 



“We anticipate that some of the changes incorporated into workplaces as a result of Covid-19 in 2020 will be more enshrined in day to day working environments going forward – and for some professional industries there will be an element of remote working embedded for good.”



Remote working perks

A third of professionals have enjoyed the flexible hours afforded with home working, and 30% stated that working from home has allowed for an increased focus on wellbeing.

Over a quarter found that the more regular updates and check-in calls with managers and colleagues during lockdown to be a positive change.



Leading the list of changes to work that employees would like to keep for this year is the enhanced use of technology, apps and tools – with 47% of respondents stating that this has improved or benefitted their way of working.



A third of professionals stated that compulsory remote working inadvertently encouraged them to improve on their business communication in a way that office working would not have – with the reliance on virtual presentations, over-the-phone discussions, and video calls being a key driver.



In fact, during lockdown, many professionals in the UK ditched email (38%), in favour of instant messenger (73%), video calls (64%), and telephone calls (59%) as their primary form of workplace communication – as the lack of physical interaction with the outside world drove professionals to be less formal with colleagues and acquaintances.



Hesitation from employers

Significantly, 63% of professionals state that their overall expectations of their employer have changed in the past year due to Covid-19.



In positive news, 61% of businesses will be looking to change their offering in response to the change in employee expectations. At the top of employers’ lists is reduced or reconfigured office space (59%), enhanced mental health and wellbeing policies (58%), and an increased investment in technology, apps & tools (44%).



“A clear finding from the survey is that there are a number of hidden benefits to office working – such as providing structure, professional and personal support, social interaction, and all-round wellbeing benefits – that are not openly being discussed, perhaps due to individual cases or sensitivities,” Bisset says.



“With many banging the drum on the benefits of remote working and no longer having to commute, it makes it increasingly difficult for individuals to open up about the value they placed on face-to-face support from management, the ease of working on ergonomic desks and chairs, and the sense of belonging or cultural fit which provides some with a purpose.



“There is no right answer – companies will really need to take stock of working practices this year to see what will best serve the needs of both employees and the business in the long term.”



Access the report here.



Photo courtesy of Canva.com

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