The pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to our normal way of life, especially in the workplace. HR teams have worked tirelessly to create new, flexible ways of working which co-operate with ever-changing rules. Employers have navigated between furlough, remote working, and in-person workplaces in attempts to ensure a Covid safe workplace, while maintaining employee wellbeing during this challenging year.
As lockdown measures ease, many are still left uncertain about what their post-lockdown workplace will look like. 1500 people across the UK were asked how they have been working during the pandemic and how they will be working over the next few months. Workers are relying on their employers more than ever to give certainty and support, and to ensure a secure working environment in the future.
Uncertainty and Anxiety
Despite the easing of lockdown rules this year, many employees are still facing uncertainty as to the nature of their future workplace. Many employees are left in the dark about how they will work: either continuing furlough, attending the workplace, working remotely from home, or a combination of these. In May 2021, over a fifth (21%) of employees had not been told how they would be expected to work in the following months.
This kind of uncertainty creates anxiety among many individuals, which only adds to the distress that many have experienced over the last tumultuous year. Over half (51%) of employees reported that they feel anxious about returning to work in the future. While the final steps of lockdown easing remain unconfirmed, employees will continue to experience uncertainty about the future of their workplace, which will add to existing anxieties of the workforce. While employers may not be able to give confirmation about the nature of the post-lockdown workspace, it is important that managers are able to communicate and empathise with the anxieties of their workforce, so employees can feel that their voices heard.
Predicting Future Working Styles
When asked how they had been working over the past year, 50% of employees said they were working from home, with 36% going into their place of work and 14% on furlough. However, as lockdown rules ease, we will begin to see more employees attending the office, as well as an increase in hybrid working styles.
Job sectors have an impact on the ability of the employee to work either at home or in person. For example, 56% of workers in the education sector will be attending workplaces full time, compared to just 26% of those in professional, technical and scientific services, the majority of whom will stay working remotely.
Despite uncertainty and challenges created by new working conditions, many employees are satisfied with the future of work in a post-lockdown environment. In fact, 89% of people reported that they were satisfied with their current working situation. Many workers comment that they prefer working remotely from home, as it saves travel time and expenses and allows them to spend more time at home with friends and family. Many workplaces have given employees a choice over whether they wish to return, which encourages employee satisfaction while still limiting numbers in the office with many choosing to remain working remotely.
Different job sectors have also reported different levels of satisfaction with regards to the future of their workplace. In the financial sector, 97% said they would be working in their preferred style over the next few months, while a quarter of government employees were unsatisfied with their proposed future working environment.
Staff who remain on furlough are the least satisfied with their working situation, with only 28% of furloughed staff reporting that they were ‘very satisfied’ with the communication they have received. This is an area which requires more support, as furloughed staff can experience feelings of instability and a lack of job security, requiring more attention and communication from employers.