September 25, 2020
A new survey published by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) claims that while 78 percent of those who experienced a change in workplace felt that they had experienced positive impacts, furloughed employees have had a significantly different experience.
Only one-third of UK employees (32 percent) returning from furlough feel trusted by employers to do their work remotely, compared to four-fifths (82 percent) of non-furloughed employees that say the same. The survey also claims that one third (34 percent) of workers who had been furloughed did not feel more valued by their employers post lockdown, compared to one fifth (20 percent) that had not been.
The Future of Work survey was conducted amongst 2,000 currently employed part or full-time employees to understand perceptions of their current working model and how they would like to work in the future. The launch of the survey comes just before the planned end of the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme, scheduled for the 31st of October.
“This virus has highlighted the need for empathetic leadership.”
The survey also suggests that although three-quarters of employees who were furloughed believed their employer supported job retention (71 percent) and employee safety (76 percent), they felt less satisfied about their employer’s considerations for the return to the office than those who have been working remotely. 56 percent of those furloughed believe their employer would only allow them to return to their workplace when its safe, versus 77 percent of employees who weren’t.
When looking at those who experienced a change in workplace, 22 percent stated they did not experience any negative impacts at all, and many benefitted from improvements such as reduced commute times (51 percent), flexibility around working hours (38 percent) and decreased distractions (15 percent).
Nick South, a Managing Director and Partner at BCG said: “Furloughing large numbers of employees was the only option for many companies as the UK went into lockdown in March. However, six months on, employees who have been working remotely feel much more valued and trusted to work remotely than those who have been furloughed. As organisations work out how they are going bring people back to the workplace and operate going forward, they need to recognize the very different experiences that their employees have had – and their different aspirations for working in the future”.
Different lock down experiences
• 18-24 year olds were more likely than those aged 55+ to report inadequate workspace at home (24 percent vs 9 percent)
• Parents with young children (under the age of 10) experienced better flexibility around working hours, however many also suffered from increased distractions and disruptions when working from home
• Employees in Greater London were much more likely to have inadequate access to work space at home (23 percent vs 13 percent) and equipment (19 percent vs 13 percent) compared to the rest of the country
Attitudes towards employers
• 50 percent of employees aged 18-24 who have worked remotely felt more valued by their employers post pandemic versus just 24 percent of older employees (aged 55+)
The future of the workplace
• Over half of UK employees who work with other people (53 percent) view a hybrid model as the best model going forward, with a preference for an equal split between time spent working remotely and in the office
• 27 percent of employees who work with other people prefer an all-office model, and 12 percent a fully remote model
• Older employees miss human contact, whilst youngest employees are divided; they showed the highest interest in remote work but a similarly high interest in returning to the office; the greatest barriers to remote work for young workers include inadequate home set-up and potentially missing out on career development opportunities
• Those with someone high risk in their household are nearly three times more likely to prefer a fully remote model (27 percent vs 10 percent)
• 75 percent of those with a commute >1h and work with others want a hybrid work model, whereas 42 percent of those with a <10min commute want everyone in the office
“Leaders need to think carefully about the different challenges that individuals have experienced.”
The data suggests that now more than ever, employers need to engage actively with employees on what matters to them and implement new ways of working that keep all employees motivated and productive, especially those returning from furlough. In addition, employers will need to be empathetic to individual circumstances, consider how to be as flexible as possible and offer alternative options for employees in different situations.
South added, “As the furlough scheme comes to an end, leaders need to think carefully about the different challenges that individuals have experienced and what specific needs their employees have. This virus has highlighted the need for empathetic leadership. Senior leaders who may have had a relatively positive experience in lockdown need to ensure they listen to their employees to understand individual experiences and take steps to ensure they continue to feel valued and trusted in this new reality.”
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