Employees will bring new expectations when they return to workplace

UK employees are looking forward to returning to work but will return with a new set of expectations, research by Toluna and Harris Interactive shows.

The ongoing study, which assesses how workers are coping with working life during the coronavirus pandemic, found the majority (57%) of UK workers surveyed were either enthusiastic or relieved about the thought of returning to their normal working arrangements.

Some were finding it harder to work at home, with 35% feeling less productive than usual.

Almost half (46%) of employees also felt they would return to their normal workplace within two months, compared to just 12% when they were surveyed during the study’s first wave on 1 April.

Employees recognised that there will be heightened pressures on their return with 25% expecting pressure to be much higher, 36% believing there will be salary, promotion, or recruitment freezes and 30% expecting more redundancies.

Yet employees will return to work having adapted to the various benefits of remote work, with data suggesting mental and physical health has improved.

More than a third (39%) of respondents said their physical health was good or very good compared to normal on 23 April, up from 30% on 1 April.

Just 32% of workers reported bad mental health on 23 April, compared with 39% on 1 April.

Melanie Steel, owner of HR consultancy firm People Change Expertise, said employees have learned the benefits of working remotely.

“I think that many employers have now seen ‘live’ how working flexibly and remotely can work, so I think this will become the norm.

"Organisations should take full advantage of this shift and look at how they can exploit it as an opportunity for both employees, who get the flexibility, and employers, who benefit from increased productivity and engagement among their employees. Organisations may also have an opportunity to reduce their office’s carbon footprint.”

In the meantime, the study showed that employees want increased communication and teamwork during lockdown.

More than half (51%) said they want regular team meetings, while 44% want work to be distributed evenly across their team.

Two in five workers (41%) also said they wanted regular updates on how the company was doing.

Steel added: “Employers can support employees by continuing to keep the focus on communications and asking employees what they need, which may change over time.

“Hosting ‘live’ events so people can see and hear from their leaders and have the ability to ask questions and receive real-time feedback is very much welcomed, even if employers don’t have all the answers.

“As everyone keeps saying, we are living in unprecedented times and no one has all the answers - we truly are all in this together.”

The study was carried out on 23 April and surveyed 607 employees from the UK. The first wave was conducted on 1 April.