Freedom of choice to prevail in post-COVID-19 work styles

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Employees will want more freedom in where they choose to work following the coronavirus pandemic

Researchers at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) found since the introduction of mandatory remote working, many employees had the chance to exercise more, spend time with family and time to think and reflect.

Almost two thirds (62%) of people said they wanted to work from home more on a regular basis.

Some respondents discussed wanting to spend the majority of their time at home, or have an equal split between home and office.

Of those who said they wanted to work from home more often generally, more than a quarter (27%) of them wanted to do so more than one day per week.

Gemma Dale, lecturer at LJMU and report author, said HR now risked employees leaving if it did not offer more flexible working choices.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “There is a potential risk that where this demand to work from home isn’t met and requests are turned down, employees may choose to seek an employer that will allow them more flexibility in their working lives.

“An economic recession may lead to a depressed job market – so these implications may take some time to be felt, unlike morale and employee engagement which could take an immediate hit.”

Yet Dale said a lack of flexibility in some organisations can create opportunities in others.

She added: “I do however think there is an opportunity for those organisations that do need to recruit now - if they can allow some homeworking on an ongoing basis it can be a talent acquisition opportunity, especially where employees feel that their current employer won't be supportive.”

The research recommended that more employers should consider home working to support employee wellbeing, reduce the carbon footprint of commuting, attract and retain talented employees, support the reduction of the gender pay gap and improve productivity.

The research authors therefore said that where workplaces should help employees set up effective workspaces.

Many employees noted a lack of hardware such as printers and monitors while working from home, plus using unsuitable desks and chairs given many are sharing spaces with family and using home spaces such as kitchen.

The study has led to a series of recommendations for HR to prepare for the increase in demand for homeworking.

These included taking feedback from employees about challenges and benefits, determining an overall approach for homeworking and reviewing flexible working and homeworking policies.

The survey also pointed to practical challenges of the pandemic such as technology, appropriate work spaces, childcare, home-schooling and stress and anxiety.

Dale added: “We didn’t see a significant amount of people saying they were working longer hours, although there were challenges around establishing boundaries between work and home. This did not however seem to have dissuaded them from doing more homeworking.”

Yet despite these challenges, many respondents had experienced more flexibility and freedom and wanted to retain it, the report’s authors said.

The survey ran for three weeks in May and early June and had over 500 responses, generating 3,000 qualitative responses.

Further reading:

Working from home saves UK drivers over quarter of a billion pounds in fuel

Majority of HR to encourage remote working post lockdown

It’s time for businesses to act to close the gender pay gap

Mothers face job insecurity and increased childcare responsibilities during lockdown

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