2020 has been a watershed year for workplace digital transformation. The urgent shift to remote working has seen the world experience two years of digital transformation in two months. New research from Microsoft Surface has examined the impact of this transformation on the UK workforce, finding that employees are happier, but under more pressure working from home – despite almost 9 out of 10 (87%) of employees reporting their businesses have adapted to hybrid work.
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The research, Work Smarter to Live Better, saw over 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 mass adoption of hybrid working has required UK organisations to examine everything from employee benefits, to training, to roles and responsibilities and to the technology they have to operate successfully. The research has found:
- The majority of UK organisations have stepped up to prepare and support their workforces. 65% of employees agree their organisation has provided them with everything they need to work effectively from home. Of those whose organisations have a formal working from home policy, 63% disagree they feel pressure to return to the office, even if guidelines allowed
- The new way of working has provided an opportunity for UK workforces to live life to a different rhythm. 55% use their lunch break to focus on their personal life and 56% report an increase in their levels of happiness working from home
- However, many employees report that they are being stretched further than before in the work they need to deliver. Nearly one in three (30%) report an increase in their hours whilst working from home, and more than half (53%) agree they feel they have to be available at all times
- As a result of these new pressures, for more than a third of people surveyed (36%), mental health and resilience resources were the most popular option when it comes to selecting 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.
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, wherein the workforce is split between working remotely and working in the office. The findings mean organisations and employees will have to adapt to support hybrid working long-term.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the biggest homeworking experiment we have ever seen in the UK. However, this is not home-working in normal times – much of this experience has been enforced home working 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 over-working 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.” – Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy, CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development
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, co-ordination 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 over-working 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, flexible start, and finish times. Support flexibility from the start by recruiting flexibly and making the right to request Flexible Working a day 1 right.
“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, whilst 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.” – Howard Lewis, Surface Business Group Lead, Microsoft UK