Home working wins for employers according to new research

New research by the CIPD among employers concludes that benefits of home working outweigh drawbacks

 

Employers have reaped benefits from the huge increase in working from home this year.

A new study saw bosses report increased productivity among their employees. Perhaps surprisingly, working from home also enhanced employee collaboration and brought more focus.

Inevitably it’s not all been upsides however. Around half of employers reported that their staff were suffering poorer mental health as a result of the upheaval and stress this year.

Benefits

The study was carried out by HR best practice body the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. 1000 employers were questioned and the findings combined with 12 in-depth organisational case studies. The result is a report entitled Embedding New Ways of Working. It concludes that the benefits of home working significantly outweigh the challenges and that a large majority of employers are planning to introduce or expand the use of home working once the crisis is over.

28% of employers reported an increase in productivity courtesy of increased home working. Another 37% say it has not impacted productivity levels.

On the downside the CIPD research highlighted the challenges of managing a staff working from home. 47% reported reduced staff mental wellbeing. Other issues included problems with staff interaction/co-operation (36%), difficulties with line managing home workers (33%) and monitoring their performance (28%).

Despite the findings on home working employers are much less likely to be planning to introduce or increase other forms of flexible working. There seems little enthusiasm for initiatives such as annualised hours, term-time working, compressed hours or job sharing, which can be used by workers who are unable to work from home.

Catalyst

Peter Cheese, CIPD CEO, says, “The step-change shift to home working to adapt to lockdowns has taught us all a lot about how we can be flexible in ways of working in the future. This should be a catalyst to change long held paradigms and beliefs about work for the benefit of many. Employers have learnt that, if supported and managed properly, home working can be as productive and innovative as office working and we can give more opportunity for people to benefit from better work-life balance. This can also help with inclusion and how we can create positive work opportunities across our economies.

“But it doesn’t suit everyone and increasingly organisations will have to design working arrangements around people’s choice and personal preference over where and when they would like to work, whilst also meeting the needs of the business.

“Employers will also have to redouble efforts to introduce flexible working arrangements for staff unable to work from home otherwise they will increasingly have a two-tier workforce of those who have opportunity to benefit from home working and flexibility and those who don’t.

“It is often essential workers and lower paid front line staff who are not able to work from home and it is crucial these workers are not left behind when we think about flexible working. Making the right to request flexible working a day one right would support the uptake of a wider range of flexible working beyond home working.”

Key findings from the research

  • Employers expect the proportion of their workforce that works from home regularly to double to 37% of the workforce on average after the crisis is over, compared to the pre-pandemic incidence average of 18%. Organisations also predict the proportion of the workforce that works from home all the time to more than double to 22%, compared to 9% before the crisis.
  • The main benefits associated with more home working are reported to be a better work-life balance (61%), greater collaboration (43%), greater ability to focus with fewer distractions (38%) and IT upskilling (33%).
  • The biggest challenges reported by employers include the unsuitability of jobs to be done from home (48%), reduced well-being among staff (47%), reduced staff interaction (36%) and the effectiveness of line management of home-based workers (33%).
  • 44% of organisations are planning to put in place additional measures or investment to support home working. Of these, two thirds of employers (66%) plan to change organisational policy to promote more home working. A majority of employers said they were going to increase investment in technology in terms of improving the quality of technology (59%) and the quantity of laptops and computers (51%).
  • Overall, just a third (33%) of employers say they plan to introduce new forms of flexible working or increase the uptake of existing flexible working arrangements more broadly, once lockdown restrictions end. Where changes are planned, working from home regularly (70%) or all the time (45%) are most commonly cited, followed by part-time working (40%), flexi-time (39%) and compressed hours (25%).




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