58% of professionals in the UK have expressed their desire to move to full-time remote working, with a further 30% wanting at least 50% remote working this year.
The findings come from recruiter Robert Walters 2021 Salary Survey – featuring data from the firm’s annual employment trends survey undertaken by 2,000 white-collar professionals.
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 a 5-10 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 (31%) 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 (28%) found that the more regular updates & check-in calls with managers and colleagues during lockdown to be a positive change to their work style.
Leading the list of changes to work that employees would like to keep for this year is the enhanced use of technology, apps & tools – with almost half (47%) of respondents stating that this has improved or benefitted their way of working.
When considering the opportunities presented by Covid-19, a third of professionals (33%) stated that compulsory remote working inadvertently encouraged them to improve on their business communication in a way that office working would not have encouraged – with the reliance on virtual presentations, over-the-phone discussions, and video calls being a key driver in this. In fact, during lockdown professionals in the UK ditched the age-old email (38%), in place 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 and more conversational with colleagues and acquaintances.
HESITATION FROM EMPLOYERS
An overwhelming 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’ list is reduced or reconfigured office space (59%), enhanced mental health & wellbeing policies (58%), and an increased investment in technology, apps & tools (44%).
Employees who are hoping for full-time remote working are unlikely to get their wish, with a quarter of companies stating that their traditional senior leadership team will be a key barrier to this – with many still preferring a ‘bums on seat’ approach to white-collar working.
Despite 35% of professionals reporting an increase in productivity whilst working from home, an overwhelming 64% of employers flagged that concerns around employee productivity is a key barrier to long term remote working.
Employees experiencing mental health issues on account of social isolation or economic anxiety (35%), and managers ability to oversee virtual teams and autonomous work (33%), were also some of the key challenges highlighted by employers around remote working.
Lucy adds: “A clear finding from the survey is that there are a number of hidden benefits to office working – such as providing structure, professional & personal support, social interaction, and all-round wellbeing benefits – that are not openly being discussed, perhaps due to individual cases or sensitivities.
“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 & chairs, and the sense of belonging or cultural fit which provides some with a purpose.
“Whilst 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.”