Employees’ views not sought over return to office

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There are fears that the employee voice is being ignored in the debate around post-pandemic working arrangements, with a survey finding that only half of managers have formally consulted their employees about their return-to-office plans.

According to the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), most managers expect about three in five staff back in their pre-pandemic place of work come 21 June, when the government expects that all current restrictions will be lifted.

However, the CMI believes that organisations are not taking employees’ views into consideration, as the survey shows just 50% of managers have spoken to staff about their preferred future working arrangements.

CMI chief executive Ann Francke said there was a risk that the flexibility benefits seen over the past year will be lost if the voice of the employee is “drowned out in the stampede back to the workplace”.

She said: “Real progress has been made in the way we work in the last year and to simply reset to factory settings of the old nine to five in the workplace model would be a step back.

“This summer we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change our working practices for the better by incorporating flexible hybrid ways of working which have proved to be the preferred option.

“You have nearly two-thirds of employees, both male and female, who want to work from home at least one day a week and we’ve now seen that that’s entirely possible. It’s worth remembering that employees perform better when they have a say in their working arrangements which can lead to a better work life balance and better productivity.”

Nearly eight in 10 managers say employees are apprehensive about the return to the office.

Social distancing (50%) and the use of public transport to commute to work (48%) are the biggest worries, but social isolation (71%), distractions (70%) mental health worries (66%) and work-life balance issues (60%) have been of concern while staff worked from home over the past year.

CMI conducted two surveys of UK-based managers in March and March-April 2021. The first involved 1,068 managers and the second received responses from 1,274 managers.

Meanwhile, a YouGov survey of 503 HR decision-makers has found 26% of organisations are set to close, downsize or consolidate their offices post-pandemic, while 53% will enable some form of remote working.

The research, commissioned by employee experience platform Applaud, found that 53% of firms will no longer require staff to work at an office five days a week. Fourteen per cent say there will be no requirement to visit an office at all.

In order to better manage the shift, 46% say they will implement better remote working tools as the pandemic subsides.

Duncan Casemore, co-founder and chief technology officer at Applaud, said: “Driven by employee experience, business leaders are turning away from the traditional five days in the office format, instead moving to provide more productive flexible and remote working scenarios.

“While there has been great clamour from the workforce to implement more flexibility in the way we work, the Covid-19 pandemic has provided the catalyst to initiate these changes. To ensure employees remain productive while remote working, organisations must continue to invest in the HR technologies that offer a consumer-grade worker experience, and which keep remote employees motivated and happy.”

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2 Responses to Employees’ views not sought over return to office

  1. Avatar
    David George 13 May 2021 at 9:16 pm #

    It is important to engage the employees in the process and co-create a new way of working; this should be an interim solution, or a pilot project, as it will take a while for everyone to establish new routines, processes and protocols that work for both employees and employer in the long run. This should be done in conjunction with a review of the workspace to determine if any interventions are required to enable the new way of working. A workplace consultant will be able to guide you along this journey.

  2. Avatar
    Noo Thinking Ltd 19 May 2021 at 2:34 pm #

    Engaging with the workforce is crucial. There is no one-size-fits-all. Even if an organisation does decide its “New Normal”, this will not work for all. A well-run consultation with feedback and evidence-based rationale, coupled with reasonable adjustments will increase the chances of employee engagement and feelings of value, and these criteria come with all the well-documented benefits: increased productivity, attendance and retention. Nowadays, it may even come with added reductions in facilities costs!
    Bring a workplace consultant/ facilitator to support this process for objectivity and transparency.

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