HR leaders to face tech-savvy workforce post-pandemic

HR leaders will be supporting a much more digitally-minded workforce after the coronavirus pandemic, with data showing that UK workers have adopted collaborative technology tools en masse during lockdown.

According to a study from work management platform Asana, almost two-thirds (62%) of full-time workers have reported increased use of tools such as Slack and Zoom since the lockdown began, with one in five (19%) using these tools for the first time.

This is despite most British workers not being well set up to work remotely when lockdown began.

More than two-thirds (67%) said they lacked a desk to work from, a PC or laptop, and/or a reliable internet connection when lockdown started.

Following over a month of lockdown, the concept of a work environment has changed dramatically, with just 31% of workers saying they were working from a desk.

The majority of respondents (35%) said they worked mostly from a dining or kitchen table, while 20% were using their sofa and 5% worked from bed.

Flexible working is also increasing, with 59% of respondents working different hours than they used to.

More than half (57%) of respondents said they were taking more breaks, and 36% reported fewer meetings.

Almost a third (30%) are starting their working day earlier, 27% are working later in the evening, and 24% are working in tandem with other priorities, such as childcare.

The vast majority (85%) of UK employees with school-age children are balancing homeschooling with their own work - the highest rate across all the countries Asana surveyed, including the US and Germany.

Of this group, 16% are starting work later, 32% are starting earlier, 41% are blocking out lunchtimes to spend time with their families, and 25% are finishing work earlier and then picking up later in the evening.

Almost four in five (79%) said this situation was significantly affecting their work, with 77% also admitting it was hard to switch off in the evenings.

Across all the respondents, the biggest challenges of enforced remote working emerged as self-discipline (45%), stress about the current health and economic situation (36%), and “feeling like I can’t switch off” (23%).

Speaking to HR magazine, Tom Blake, chief executive at consultancy Blake Connolly, said: “With the switch to working from home, many employees are showing just how adaptable they are. From learning new tech skills for on-line meetings, to creating makeshift workspaces and learning how to teach their children.

“But with that comes a level of balance that many are not quite getting right as they are finding it hard to switch off. Employers really need to consider how they are supporting their teams on multiple fronts; technologically, flexibility and mentally.”

Blake recommended HR and business leaders should start thinking about their organisations’ response once lockdown measures lift.

He added: “They might require employees to come back to the workplace, but employees may want a new level of flexibility as they have found they have been more productive and could be worried about returning to the physical work space.”