Businesses must perform an accurate assessment of what employees may require to work remotely and otherwise in a post-pandemic world, according to research.
A study across 145,000-plus global employees by Leesman, a firm that assesses employee workplace experience, has revealed a series of “acute factors impacting an employees’ ability to work remotely”.
Leesman warns that organisations that leave these stress points unchecked risk dismantling years of organisational development.
As workers enter the third lockdown in England, Leesman says “organisations which prolong decisions about the role of office-based and remote working in their post-pandemic work landscape further risk employees disconnecting with colleagues and the organisation”.
Dr Peggie Rothe, chief insights & research officer at Leesman, says organisations need a more comprehensive understanding of their employees’ experience to accurately model their post-pandemic work landscape.
Rothe said: “In times of change, employees need to know what to expect from their workplace when the turbulence ends. Without this clarity, employers risk losing those employees that they have spent years developing. And as the global pandemic and the remote working revolution together have removed the geographic boundaries previously limiting organisations’ talent strategies, we are approaching a new war for talent.”
The new report, entitled Your Workplace of the Future, also states that both the physical workplaces that employers offer and the remote work setting the individual employee has available to them are critical in that risk assessment.
Insights from the ongoing home working study warn that “the ability to learn from others is under threat, with a third (33.7 per cent) of employees reporting that this activity is not supported when working remotely. Nearly half (43.9 per cent) do not agree that their home environment supports ‘informal social interaction’, and a further 28.2 per cent cannot agree that their home set-up allows them to collaborate on creative work. More than three in 10 (30.2 per cent) dispersed employees feel disconnected to their organisation, and 27.8 per cent are unable to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
On a subset of the data across 22,000-plus respondents who reported on both their office and homeworking experience at the same time, four key variables were found to have the greatest impact on these critical outcomes:
- The nature of the homeworking setting available to an employee: Data consistently found that employees’ physical home settings offer the strongest indicator of their overall remote working experience. Employees with a separate space have a better experience than those without. But for those without a space they can dedicate to work, the negativity towards factors such as learning and social connectivity becomes acute. Without an understanding of this fundamental information, employers will find it impossible to instruct their future workplace strategy.
- The complexity of an employee’s role: From individual, desk-based work to creative thinking, the more variety and complexity in types of work activities, the more challenging it is for their work environment to support those different needs. Data showed that employees with less complex roles were more likely to be able to work effectively remotely than those that had greater diversity in the number of activities that make up a typical working day. The more complex an employee’s role, the less likely it is that their home supports their work.
- The extent to which employees need to collaborate: While the vast majority of employees agree that they have the remote technology tools they need, the extent to which they need to collaborate in their role still has a bearing on which location they felt was best suited to their role. But the data also showed that this individual or collaborative split was rarely as binary as many commentators suggest, with few employees falling into either the highly collaborative or highly individual categorisations.
- The experience employees had in the workplaces they used pre-pandemic: The quality and effectiveness of the spaces previously provided for employees has been shown to strongly impact how they now rate their remote experience. And the better the experience of those corporate workplaces pre-pandemic, the more time employees want to spend back there when it is safe to do so.
Tim Oldman, Leesman CEO and founder, added: “The pandemic has undoubtedly compressed years of remote working evolution into a matter of months and, on the whole, with much success. But with vaccination programmes under way in many countries, organisations must urgently turn their attentions to their post-pandemic workplace thinking.
“Executive leadership teams must get to grips with how their employees’ experiences, attitudes and expectations have changed and ready their strategies for where employees will be based in the future. Employees’ demand for clarity and certainty will only increase as global vaccination programmes ramp up, so clear plans, evidenced with front line employee experience data, will be more in demand than ever before.”