Half of UK employers plan to 'stagger' return to work

Nearly nine in 10 want remote working

Adam Saville
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Half of UK employers plan to 'stagger' return to work

Survey reveals most popular strategies for dealing with challenges posed by Covid-19

Half (49%) of employers are planning to stagger their return to work based on employees' own health risks related to Covid-19, while 46% said they will stagger employees back into the office depending on how critical their role is to the business.

The survey by Robert Walters found the next most popular strategy is the creation of smaller work groups (40%), followed by changing working hours (34%), a voluntary return scheme (33%) and splitting shifts (28%).

More than a quarter (28%) of businesses stated that they will base their return-to-work strategy on local infection rates, while a third said they have not considered what their approach will be.

Lucy Bisset, director at Robert Walters, said: "What the research highlights is that despite the success of home working, employers are keen to start encouraging their staff back into the workplace and are happy to take necessary steps and put procedures in place to help enable this.

"A return to office brings about many perks, including social inclusion, better workplace collaboration, a separation of home-life, and a reinforcement of company values.

"What employers need to do is merge the perks of office-life with what people have been enjoying about working from home; for example - flexi-hours, a relaxed atmosphere, and avoidance of busy commute times."

Remote working

The research conducted among 2,200 global companies also explored the legacy of remote working.

Nearly nine out of 10 (87%) of employees said they would like more opportunities to work from home post-return, with 21% stating that they would like to work from home permanently.

However, nearly two thirds (64%) of firms cited concerns about employee productivity as a result of remote working, with 57% of senior leadership preferring traditional ways of working - more than a third (36%) see face-to-face sales as an important ongoing part of their business strategy.

Cost saving

Half (50%) said they would look to bring costs down by implementing headcount freezes, while 43% said they would be utilising government schemes.

The reduction of office space (44%) is also intended to make savings, as is switching to virtual meetings (46%) to fit travel budgets.

For recruitment, the use of virtual interviews (57%), online assessments (46%) and remote onboarding (56%) are also tactics being considered to keep costs down.

Lucy Bisset added: "It is too early to tell whether cost saving tactics will result in a reduction in salaries or bonuses, but any freeze of the sort will likely be compensated by the increase in softer benefits such as flexi-hours, wellbeing perks, and remote working."

Adapting to change

Three quarters of employers admitted that their senior team have not been equipped to manage teams remotely - 74% said they will need training to adapt to new ways of working - for example, around being more empathetic to work-life balance.

There will also be a focus on outcomes rather than work hours (65%), improving on virtual communications (54%), better understanding of mental health and wellbeing (53%) and creating more collaborative environments (36%) for many companies following Covid-19.

Employees, meanwhile, expect more flexible working (89%), investment in better technology (52%), a revised focus on wellbeing (32%), changes to office layout (30%), more autonomy (29%), changes to work hours (18%) and changes to performance measures (12%).

Lucy Bisset concluded: "It can be daunting for companies who have been going through a difficult period to consider spending money on their physical workspace, technical infrastructure or general operations.

"However, those who have been through previous periods of economic turbulence will know that investment at the early stages is crucial to remaining competitive and retaining good staff. We'd advise all employers to undergo a period of consultation with their staff to ascertain what they believe the future of their workplace and industry is going to be."

Have you registered your free place for our virtual CPD event exploring 'Supporting employee mental health during a pandemic and beyond' yet?

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