UK workers mistrust more contented home-based colleagues

UK workers mistrust more contented home-working colleagues

The debate which ensued following the Yahoo ban on home working earlier this year was as much as about the level of trust felt towards home workers as it was about the importance of collaboration within the workplace. The fact is that for the majority of home workers, day to day life is easier. No commuting, work where you please, no irritating colleagues and the freedom to nip out to the dentist, doctors or parents meeting without having to book a half day off. As a result, while home workers enjoy the best mental health and wellbeing of four groups in a survey of contact centre workers, office workers, home workers and mobile professional workers, their distance from the office-based working population breeds suspicion between them and everybody else.

“GenM 2013: One Year On”,  released today by Jabra UK, found that 55 per cent of office workers think that home working breeds mistrust, citing ‘negative gossip’, (11 per cent), a perception that they ‘do not work as hard’, (13 per cent), or that they undertake ‘personal tasks’ (31 per cent) as their justification for lack of trust of home-working colleagues. And one in three actually believe home working could put your career at risk. Overall just 14 per cent of those interviewed said that remote working is widely accepted, undertaken in their organisation and seen as being productive.

However, home-working is clearly here to stay: 7 out of 10 workers either work from home or have a colleague that does, 24 per cent want to work from home more often and 15 per cent would only take a job in the future if it was home-based. Clearly, as home working becomes more common, employers need to address these issues of mistrust. Poor communications play a large role in isolating and dividing groups and Jabra’s research suggests that the importance of face-to-face and verbal communication between workers is being underplayed.

The report examines how well workers are adapting to the changing face of modern workplace communications, and follows-on from last year’s “GenM: Defining the Workplace of Tomorrow”, which outlined the workplace demands of the next generation of workers, including the tools they wanted and their desire to be able to work flexibly or from home more often.

The results of this year’s study show that we’re far from achieving the Flexible Working Nirvana we all imagined, as a shocking 74.6 per cent of UK workers suffer from some kind of significant work-related stress or anxiety. A feeling of being undervalued is the most common issue, (at 33 per cent), followed by having poor interpersonal relationships, (32 per cent), feelings of anxiety and stress (29 per cent), exhaustion, (24 per cent) and feelings of isolation (20 per cent).

Only 40 per cent of workers are currently satisfied that they have the tools to do their job, with IT departments struggling to provide the appropriate devices required. This is such a serious problem that 41 per cent of workers would consider switching jobs if they were given poor quality devices, (with 18 per cent suggesting they would leave if they were not allowed to use their own communications devices at work).

While 54 per cent agree a work-life balance is more important than a pay rise, (compared to 27 per cent in last year’s report) 74 per cent of employers fail to even offer flexible working policies.

“Transformation in the workplace is creating entirely new challenges that need to be addressed,” commented Andrew Doyle, Managing Director UK & Ireland, Jabra Business Solutions. “Employers are perhaps focusing too exclusively on the ‘technology’. Good communications tools do not necessarily make good communications.

“What’s more, as we also saw last year, there is a hunger for more flexible and homeworking practices amongst workers. If companies are to retain the best staff this is something they cannot afford to ignore.”