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Employers warm to home working: CIPD research

Employers are seeing the benefits of maintaining flexible working as new research reveals that productivity levels have improved since the first UK lockdown.

According to a report by the professional HR body CIPD, 71% of UK employers believe remote working has either boosted or made no difference to productivity.

The research, based on a survey of 2,000 employers and in-depth interviews, found that productivity has increased since the first lockdown last spring. A third (33%) of employers now say the shift to home working has boosted productivity, compared with 28% in June 2020.

Perceptions of productivity were higher in organisations that had offered line manager training in managing remote workers. Of those employers who offered such training, 43% said productivity had increased during home working, compared to only 29% that hadn’t offered training.

Flexible working for all

While 63% of employers plan to introduce or expand the use of hybrid working to some degree, the CIPD report also stressed the need for organisations to look at flexible options beyond home working, recognising that not all roles can be done from home. The CIPD is calling for organisations and the government to make the right to request flexible working a day-one right for all employees through its #FlexFrom1st campaign, to help boost the number of people using a variety of flexible working arrangements.

Almost half (48%) of employers plan to expand the use of flexi-time, with 45% of those surveyed stating employees who can’t work from home should still be able to benefit from flexible working arrangements. 

Claire McCartney, Senior Policy Adviser for Resourcing and Inclusion at the CIPD, said organisations should take stock and carefully consider how to make hybrid working a success, rather than rushing people back to their workplace when there are clearly productivity benefits to home working.

“To make hybrid working a success in the long-term, employers need to implement a strategy that focuses on wellbeing, communication and collaboration to recognise people’s individual preferences,” she said. “They must also provide appropriate training and support for managers, so they have the tools needed to support employees to work remotely. Organisations will need to be adaptable and take a tailored approach based on individual choice and need in order to maximise the benefits and minimise the challenges of hybrid working.”

Too traditional to change

The report coincides with research by Walters People that reveals 69% of managers saw equal if not increased productivity levels since remote working became widespread.

However, despite the fact that 88% of employees want to continue with at least 50% working from home post-pandemic, two thirds (60%) believe their employers are too traditional to embrace remote working longer term.

While 54% of employees claim their mental health has improved and 45% their productivity has increased, just 21% of companies are considering a complete move to full-time remote working.

“As we begin to see light at the end of the tunnel regarding lockdown, so too do companies who are keen to return to ‘business as usual’ and to see the faces of their employees again,” said Phill Westcott, Director at Walters People. “However, as the time gets closer to offices being able to re-open there seems to be a disconnect between what employees are asking for and what companies will be doing post pandemic.

“Whilst there has been a great deal of success around remote working – and no doubt flexi-working will be here for good – there are ample arguments for a return to office including the need for junior staff and new starters to physically be around and shadow the team in order to pick up the ‘softer’ aspects of the job. As we edge closer to return, we are beginning to see more companies invest back into their ‘employer brand’ as a way of reminding staff why the culture, people, and the office is such a great place to be.”

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