Encouraging workers to work from home and closing unessential businesses subsequently led to 44% of employed adults to work from home in the UK, according to the Office of National Statistics.
Here at Tiger Recruitment, we conducted a survey of 1,100 employees (over 900 of whom were in the UK) to shed light on how these measures were affecting their working lives.
We conducted a similar survey of 100 UK clients across a variety of sectors including financial services, banking, construction, professional services, creative, education, oil and gas, hospitality and law. These respondents reported working in roles encompassing HR, operations, support and business owners.
While there have been negative impacts in the transition to remote working, 95% of employees surveyed benefits from their current working situation, with 87% reporting that the coronavirus pandemic has had a positive impact on how they work.
The survey results highlighted some key areas for employers to consider prioritising moving forward.
Flexible working continues to be valued
Before the coronavirus pandemic, 46% of respondents had never had the opportunity to work from home, however the responses towards this new way of working have been overwhelmingly positive. The top three benefits reported by employees were:
- They enjoyed the time they saved by not commuting (74%)
- They appreciated the money they were saving (73%)
- They enjoyed the increased flexibility in how they work (52%)
Over half of surveyed respondents hope that their employer appreciates how working from home can be good for productivity and that they continue to support home working when workforces return to the office.
While some employers may have had concerns about the productivity of home workers before the pandemic, our survey of employers demonstrated that many now see the benefits. In fact, 86% acknowledged that employees are working productively and 59% say they’ll be more supportive of home working in the future.
Harness the new skills employees have learnt
According to the survey results, the main skills that employees have learnt include adaptability (46%) and the ability to focus on core tasks (41%).
In addition, an openness to new ways of working was reported by 41% of employees and a massive 72% of employers. It begs the question, how can this new-found flexibility be harnessed for the long-term benefit of the employee and employer?
Can those who’ve excelled, under the circumstances, be considered as mentors, trainers or social committee leaders? Are there opportunities for them to become involved with designing or facilitating remote-onboarding processes for new hires?
Similarly, if the pandemic has caused a long-term shift in your customers’ needs, are there openings for those responsive team members to creatively brainstorm new business opportunities alongside management teams?
On the operations side, this also presents a fantastic opportunity to review and audit the systems within the organisation. Enlist the help of your most tech-savvy volunteers and put a plan in place to trial new technologies and future-proof the company.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that those businesses who evolve with the times are most likely to succeed – so mobilise your most agile staff members to support that journey.
The social aspect of work is essential for happy employees
The biggest concern for home-working employees is the lack of social interaction, with over half of those surveyed missing their colleagues and friends.
Therefore employers should ensure that socialising is a priority when returning to the office. Whether this is by encouraging coffee breaks, Friday afternoon drinks or company-wide events, making time for team members to share experiences will be crucial to an effective return-to-work transition.
Mental health is key to business success
The silver lining of the coronavirus pandemic, for many, is that employers are paying more attention to the mental health of their employees, some for the first time. While 65% of workers hope that their employers learn that happy, healthy employees are key to business success, half of employers acknowledged that they could actually be doing more for staff mental health and wellbeing.
Employees’ mental health concerns are each unique, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Currently, their top three sources of stress are:
- Not knowing how long the situation is likely to last (63%)
- The long-term security of their jobs (49%)
- Catching the coronavirus and falling ill (42%)
Many employees also carry caring responsibilities or have lost loved ones to COVID-19. Therefore, it’s essential that employers put the mental health of their employees first in the coming weeks and months. If there aren’t any policies in place, employers should consider creating wellness action plans or training mental health first aiders to ensure employees feel supported and understand the resources available to them.
Communication and contingency planning need to be improved
When asked what weaknesses this pandemic had uncovered in their workplaces, three of the main areas were internal (25%) and external (17%) communications, as well as an inadequate contingency plan (21%).
Clearly, when staff are left in the dark, it can cause undue stress and uncertainty at a time when they’re most looking for guidance. We are now all too aware of how quickly our reality can change overnight so, moving forward, employers must recognise the importance of responsive and transparent communication to stakeholders.
Those businesses who’ve managed their communications well in the last few months have been smaller SMEs with agile teams used to working responsively. Conversely, larger organisations with unnecessary bureaucracy have been left behind, with their corporate messages sounding tone deaf among their audiences at a time when they most need words of reassurance.
While the above are important areas of consideration for any employer, what’s clear is that the current times have exposed weaknesses that many had never realised were there. This is an opportunity to review, analyse and evolve. I look forward to embarking on this journey together and seeing you on the other side.
Click here for a full breakdown of Tiger Recruitment’s COVID-19 survey.
David Morel is the CEO and Founder of Tiger Recruitment. Headquartered in London with offices in Dubai and New York, the agency specialises in business support, virtual, private, HR and hospitality recruitment.