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Remote access means employees cannot 'switch off'

40% admit to checking their work mobile or emails at least five times a day outside work hours

A third of workers feel that having remote access to the workplace means they cannot switch off in their personal time, according to the latest CIPD/Halogen Employee Outlook report.

The survey of more than 2,000 UK employees found that two-fifths (40%) checked their work mobile or emails at least five times a day outside working hours. Nearly a fifth (18%) felt as though they are under surveillance with remote access to work, and 17% said it made them feel anxious or affected their sleep.

Those in the private sector were more likely to say that they can always switch off from work (47%), compared with those in the public (35%) and voluntary sectors (29%). Public sector employees were found to be almost twice as likely to check their work mobile or emails at least five times a day outside of working hours (32%), than those in the voluntary (17%) and private sectors (23%).

Claire McCartney, associate research adviser at the CIPD, suggested that in light of the Brexit skills challenge, employers need to carefully consider how to positively support flexible working. “With the UK’s decision to leave the EU causing further uncertainty around access to skills, it’s more important than ever that employers make use of all the talent available to them by ensuring their workplaces are inclusive, flexible and agile,” she said.

“However, a lack of clarity and guidance for employees around remote working can cultivate an environment where some employees feel unable to physically or mentally switch off. This can have adverse effects on employee wellbeing and their engagement with the organisation, as well as their productivity at work.”

She said that employers need to have a clear approach to remote working, as well as create a wider enabling culture where employees feel trusted and empowered to take ownership of their work but also able to speak out if they are struggling. “HR plays a critical role in creating and influencing these cultures of trust, by engaging with employees and challenging some of the problem areas that exist,” she added.

Dominique Jones, chief people officer at Halogen Software, said that organisations should focus on providing employees with the tools and resources to access what they need, when they need it, to improve their performance. “Those that enable progress on goals, and feedback and development, will be better positioned to help people perform at their best and help move the business forward,” she said.