Across the UK, the official response to the COVID-19 outbreak has featured extended periods of lockdown and strict social distancing in an attempt to limit the transmission of the virus. These measures have had wide-ranging ramifications for working practices up and down the country. In almost every sector, people have had to rapidly adapt to remote working, adopting a range of online collaboration tools along the way for the workplace.
Despite the disruption, employers and staff appear to have embraced this new world of work. According to a recent in-depth study conducted jointly by the University of Birmingham and the University of Kent, managers intend to actively encourage homeworking post-pandemic. The reason? 59% of managers surveyed said that working from home increases productivity.
However, opinions among the workforce are varied and wide-ranging.
To unravel the complexities of the current working environment, we asked over 400 UK employees about their experiences of hybrid and remote working since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Covering everything from work preferences to perceptions of their personal performance, the results highlight insights that could help employers to better support to their remote workforce (full methodology is available at the bottom of the article).
Remote working is no longer considered a temporary solution
The survey reveals that over half of people (53%) now work remotely on a fulltime basis since the start of the pandemic.
The results suggest that the remote working trend is here to stay post-COVID – at least some of the time. Asked how they would prefer to work after the end of the pandemic, the majority of respondents confirmed they would like to work remotely on at least a weekly basis.
Older workers are most keen to embrace fulltime remote work. 60% of respondents aged over 56 and over would prefer to work this way in future.
COVID-19 is not just changing the way we work, it is also impacting where we choose to live. With remote and hybrid working practices more established, just over half (51%) of our sample said they would consider moving further away from the office. This could have benefits for employers, widening the potential talent tool when making new hires.
Productivity and quality of work is on the up
For many firms, the urgency of the crisis meant remote working was rolled-out at speed and scale. Now, with the practice seemingly here to stay, it is important they optimise their approach so staff are fully supported when they are working out of the office.
Fortunately, the survey shows most staff believe that remote and hybrid working has a positive impact on their performance. However, with a relatively even split, it seems most employers will need to cater to a divided workforce in future.
Looking beyond the volume of work they are able to complete when working remotely, the vast majority of employees believe it has a positive impact on the quality of their output. 88% reported that they are satisfied with the quality of their work when remote working, versus just 12% who are dissatisfied.
Work-life balance is a challenge for many
Despite a widespread acceptance of remote working, there is one issue that remains a challenge for staff – maintaining boundaries between home life and the world of work. When asked if they had managed to set healthy work/life boundaries for themselves, almost a third (32%) had failed to do so or had only minimally established boundaries:
- 9% of respondents had set no boundaries
- 23% had minimally established boundaries
- 43% moderately established boundaries
- 25% had completely established boundaries.
Similarly, 34% of those surveyed have experienced difficulties establishing work/life boundaries with family or housemates, 28% with their direct manager, and 25% with their team.
This struggle to set and maintain boundaries may be partly responsible for another trend revealed by the survey: Most employees are feeling pressured to work longer hours than they would if still office based.
Working excessive hours is a key concern for most workers
Respondents confirmed a range of issues were presenting them with challenges on a regular basis. The most prominent challenges include:
- Working more hours than standard (17%)
- Getting work calls before and/or after work hours (16%)
- Family members or housemates not respecting time and/or work space (16%)
- Use of personal devices (laptop/phone) for work functions (15%)
- The pressure to answer emails on weekends (14%)
- Quick-turnaround assignments that require after hours or weekend work (13%)
- Difficulty keeping secure information private due to sharing of space with family/housemates (5%)
Finding ways to address these issues for employees would go a long way to addressing the issue of work-life balance.
27% of respondents believe their home office is insufficient
GetApp’s survey results suggest a significant proportion of the UK workforce is in need of additional support from their employer to better adapt to remote working practices.
We asked respondents if they considered their home office setup sufficient to ensure productivity when working remotely. The most popular response, with 72%, confirmed most have everything they require. However, over a quarter (27%) said they need a more comprehensive home office environment to work effectively.
Respondents also shared a number of their tips for effective remote working. Many focused on the need to both establish clear work/life routines and boundaries, and communicate these to the people around you – in your personal and professional life. In addition, the importance of keeping to regular hours and taking regular breaks was highlighted by numerous people.
Younger employees require greater training support
Businesses may also need to look at providing training to help employees adapt to the new ways of working and better operate remote work software. Over a third (34%) expressed that this kind of training would help them better adapt to working out of the office.
The desire for training was especially pronounced among younger employees.
Communications is an important area to focus on when designing training programmes for remote working. One in five (20%) employees expressed dissatisfaction with team communications while working remotely. Likewise, a similar number (22%) were dissatisfied with the quality of communication they had received from their managers.
Data for this study was collected in November 2020 from an online survey of 404 respondents that live in the UK.
To participate in the survey, respondents had to be:
- Employed full-time or part-time, or self-employed
- Working for a company with at least two people
- Working remotely sometimes or all the time since COVID-19.