Only three in 10 UK employers expect to have their workforce fully back onsite in two years' time following the outbreak of COVID-19, a study by Willis Towers Watson (WTW) has found.
The findings also show that 85% of firms anticipate a return to the workplace for most employees who want to by the end of 2021, although they do not anticipate a return to pre-pandemic working practices.
Overall, employers think that around a quarter of their workforce will work remotely on a full-time basis in two years’ time, and that almost half will embrace hybrid working.
This comes after businesses were recently warned that cyber criminals are exploiting new security vulnerabilities brought on by COVID-19 and widespread homeworking. Employers have also been urged to consider the mental health of their employees as they shift to hybrid working.
“While some uncertainty remains about exactly what the journey towards the 'new normal' looks like, one thing’s for sure: hybrid working is here to stay,” said Lucie McGrath, director of health and benefits at WTW GB.
“We’ve all weathered a huge amount of change over the last two years. Employers should think carefully about how to support their employees’ mental health as we adjust to the new working world.”
The study involved a poll of senior employee benefits professionals at 121 UK companies in May and June 2021.
It also found that one in five employers have encouraged employees to get vaccinated through communications campaigns, while one in seven are giving people time off or cash as a thank you for getting vaccinated.
However, 60% are not planning to use incentives, and none of the organisations surveyed currently ask their employees to get vaccinated in order to return to the workplace.
Just 12% are considering requiring employees to get vaccinated before they can return to the workplace. The survey also found that two-thirds of employers are unsure when they will drop social distancing and safety protocols at work.
“While uncertainty is unavoidable as businesses take tentative steps back towards the workplace, it can also feel unsettling for employees,” McGrath continued. "People who have worked from home for the last two years may find it tiring to spend more time in their workplaces.
“Equally, there are lots of upsides. The new hybrid world could give employees the chance to have the best of both worlds. They can tackle projects which require deep focus at home and come into the workplace to collaborate and create, achieving a better work/life balance in the process.
“As ever, the key to success will be in getting the details right. We expect this to be an iterative process for employers, and it will be important to listen to employees throughout.”
Image credit: Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock
Author: Chris Seekings