As businesses consider plans for welcoming employees back to the office, there is an ongoing debate around what a return to the workplace should look like. The last several months of remote and hybrid working have resulted in a variety of different opinions and needs among the UK workforce on the best policies, processes and procedures for the future of work.
Employers looking to implement the most appropriate policies and procedures for a return to the office have a tough job ahead in order to satisfy the new expectations of their teams. New research from Lucid and Vitreous World sheds a light on just how mixed the current sentiments of employees across the UK are today.
Location, location, location
For many, remote work has provided useful flexibility. The elimination of long commutes and ability to more evenly split household responsibilities between partners while working at home have made balancing work and home life easier, among several other benefits. On the other hand, feelings of loneliness and disconnectedness, as well as concerns around mental health, are climbing as some people continue to spend long periods of time isolated at home and can find it increasingly difficult to separate work and home life.
It is clear that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and that a both hybrid and flexible approach to home and office working would be preferable. But what happens when the decision makers don’t agree?
The research showed that most older, white males who worked full time at an office location preferred it. Conversely most women preferred to work at home at least some of the time. Arguably, a high proportion of people most responsible for home chores fall into the latter category whereas executive decision makers may fall into the former demographic and therefore may not understand why flexibility is so important for others.
COVID-19 anxiety over returning to a place of work
Navigating the return to traditional workplaces will be difficult to execute for employers as anxiety lingers around COVID, more than half (57%) of respondents felt anxious about returning to the workplace and one in four people (26%) felt pressure from their employer to return to their place of work.
Whilst 69% of employees surveyed felt their employers could have done more to ease the transition back to the workplace it seems that some anxiety around returning to the workplace could have been eased by better communication of how the business would manage COVID-19 in the long term with 32% suggesting that clear policies on self-isolation and quarantine would have helped.
Digging further into the survey results, it becomes apparent that easing the transition back to the workplace is a more prominent concern amongst different age groups, genders, ethnicities, and backgrounds. For example, of the 69% of employees who feel their employer could do or have done more, employees with Asian (89%), Black (85%) or mixed (84%) background were less satisfied with their employers actions compared to employees stating they are of white ethnicity (65%).
This is echoed across the wider workplace, with minority groups feeling much more strongly that their work environments are not welcoming, inclusive, or positive for all employees.
More than half of employees said that they don’t think that their workplace is a welcoming, inclusive and positive space. That number increases among younger employees — where 90% of 18-24 year olds and 83% 25-34 year olds feel that inclusivity could be improved. Employees who come from Asian, Black or a mixed background are also more likely to think that their workplace is not welcoming or inclusive enough (86%, 87% and 87% respectively). The data also shows that the same can be observed for the LGBTQIA+ group.
Overall, 69% of employees think that their employer isn’t fully supporting them and their peers with their mental health. There are also differences here across ethnicities: 66% of white employees don’t think that their employees provide enough mental health support, which increases for Asian employees (90%), black employees (86%) and employees with a mixed background (77%).
Happy workers make productive workers
Whilst COVID has undoubtedly been a worry for many in recent times, statistics on mental health in the workplace in general are quite alarming with nearly half of respondents who stated they suffer from emotional, psychological, or mental health conditions believe these can inhibit their ability to attend a workplace, as opposed to working from home.
Similar research carried out by Surgo Ventures found that 1 in 4 adults have prejudiced views on mental illness, so it is not surprising that our research found that 65% of employees feel that workplaces today are still not welcoming, inclusive, or positive spaces. The majority of those with a physical disability or a mental health condition also thought their workplace is not doing enough to support them.
With happy workers known to be more productive in the workplace, employers prioritize the diverse needs and requirements of all their employees – regardless of whether the issues are COVID related or down to other factors such as childcare, travel, mental health or physical disabilities.
Leading with compassion at the heart of your business and promoting kindness, inclusivity and empathy in every daily task is what makes for a happy working environment and in turn productive employees and of course a successful business.