“Don’t force us back into the office!”

Tuesday 26 May 2020
A new study suggests that the current on-site working practices are a thing of the past, but that there are some crucial interventions required to maintain remote working productivity.
an image of a table which has an open laptop, a mug and a sleeping cat

The majority of those who are currently homeworking want to make it a permanent part of their weekly routine, according to CMI’s recent ‘Working At Home’ survey of managers.

As the government began to ease restrictions on returning to the workplace for those in England, the survey found that:

  • 75% of managers currently working from home want to remain working from home in some form post-pandemic
  • 59% of managers want to work from home a couple of days a week, making homeworking a significant feature of the UK’s ‘new normal’.

The survey was conducted using Engaging Works’ ‘Workplace Happiness Survey’, and also shows that since January 2020, overall workplace happiness has increased across all managers, regardless of whether they are working from home or in the workplace.

Among managers who were working from home, those with caring responsibilities were significantly more likely to want to continue working from home; 64% of managers with children expressed a desire to work remotely for a couple of days each week compared to 57% of managers who work from home without caring responsibilities.

When we asked respondents what would improve their experience of working from home after the current Covid-19 situation is over, some important themes emerged. These will need to be top-of-mind for managers over the coming months:

  • Better tech set-up (access, training, connectivity)
  • Better workstation set-up (desk, chair, larger screen)
  • Better communication and time management for home working (i.e., fewer meetings)
  • Managing the boundaries between working from home and home (working hours etc.)
  • Children not being part of the home working set-up

Here are some observations from respondents about how to manage the emerging ‘new normal’:

  • “Meetings and audio presentations do not suit every learning type. Managers need to be more flexible and understand how their employees learn and retain information”
  • “Set proper agendas when meetings are called; and disseminate information prior to the meeting”
  • “Introduce collaborative working software to simulate the office culture and working environment”
  • “Understand that different people thrive in different work environments. Some people don’t like open plan offices and they can make video-calling very difficult”
  • Retain option to work at home even if your people don’t use it regularly – don’t force people to travel to the main office between meetings”
  • “Understand the impact of childcare on people's ability to work"

CMI’s Chief Executive Ann Francke said: “The traditional idea of a five-day office working week is a thing of the past, and businesses will need to rebuild with this in mind.”

Lord Mark Price, founder of Engaging Works, said: “A workforce that is happy and engaged is likely to be 20% more commercially successful compared to teams with unhappy employees… If employers can ensure that employees are happy and productive when working from home, then the need for teams to be physically together becomes unnecessary.”

About the Engaging Works April 2020 survey: a total of 1,841 CMI practising managers took part in the survey between 23 April and 6 May. 87% of managers were homeworking and 13% were based at their regular workplace. 48% of homeworking managers did not have caring responsibilities, 40% of home working managers had childcare responsibilities.

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