More flexible work after lockdown expected by almost half of workers, survey finds

The survey, conducted by O2, ICM and YouGov, predicted that many employees will be reluctant to give up working remotely after lockdown, with many believing their employer will permanently change their approach to flexible working as a result of the crisis.

One third (33%) of respondents expected to work from home at least three days a week after lockdown, and 81% expected to work remotely at least one day a week.

The research coincided with a separate survey by Willis Towers Watson, which found employees had remained productive while working from home despite the challenges posed by the crisis.

Only 15% of the 996 employers surveyed said remote working had impacted employee productivity negatively, while 27% said there had been a small negative impact. A further 15% said that employees home working during the pandemic had not impacted staff productivity.

More than two-thirds of companies said 75% of their organisation was working remotely because of COVID-19. A majority felt they now had the technology and resources in place to work productively and remotely for an extended period. This was despite just over half of employers reporting less than 10% of their workforce worked remotely before the crisis.

Gerwyn Davies, public policy adviser for the CIPD, said it was still too early for businesses to fully understand the impact lockdown has had on employee productivity, and urged caution in assuming productivity would be maintained if the same or similar levels of home working were implemented after lockdown. He warned that employers should treat productivity data carefully because there were many variables that could affect it, such as high levels of staff absence and other "teething problems” that have come with such an abrupt change to working lifestyles. Increased levels of remote working post-crisis could be a silver lining to emerge from the outbreak, with many employers also attracted by the opportunity to cut real estate costs, he said. But he warned against reducing office space too radically to begin with because of the difficulty of anticipating whether productivity would be maintained.

Gerwyn Davies said, "It's extremely likely that productivity will fall substantially in the second quarter of this year, whether that's made worse or not by home working is ultimately about employer perception, it will take some time for employers to assess whether productivity in their organisation has gone down following the lockdown because they will need to take a forensic look at any data they have to track productivity.”

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