Organisations are being urged to listen to employees and seize the once in a generation opportunity to embed flexibility in the workplace rather than lose the lessons of lockdown in a stampede back to the workplace.
New research published today from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has found that despite a growing appetite for hybrid ways of working, large numbers of staff are expected to return to the workplace when work from home guidelines are lifted on 21 June.
The research found that over four out of five (80%) of managers are expecting on average almost three out of five of their staff (59%) back in the workplace in June. However, the research also revealed that employees’ views were not being fed into the decision-making process regarding the return to the workplace, with only half (50%) of managers having had a formal consultation with staff.
Ann Francke, Chief Executive of CMI, said: “The last year has shown that a much more flexible approach to the workplace is possible. Organisations have been forced to use remote working technology as never before and to embrace a more flexible approach to work proving skeptics wrong.
“It’s concerning that only half of managers have held a formal consultation on returning to the workplace and there’s a risk that flexibility gains could be lost and the voice of employees could be drowned out in the stampede back to the workplace. Real progress has been made in the way we work in the last year and to simply reset to factory settings of the old 9 to 5 in the workplace model would be a step back.
Ann continues: “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.”
The return to work does not come without some apprehension from staff, as reported by three quarters (78%) of managers.
Social distancing at work (59%) and the use of public transport to commute to work (48%) were the biggest concerns. Commuting concerns were greatest for managers in London (79%). Homeworking, however, continues to present some challenges for both managers and their direct reports such as social isolation (71%), home place distractions (70%), negative impact on mental health/ wellbeing (66%), and work/life balance (60%).