UK employees ‘not equipped’ to work from home permanently

Following the news that numerous blue-chip businesses, such as KPMG and Ernst & Young, have adopted a permanent hybrid working model, new research indicates that workers do not feel they have the tools or technology they need to work from home.

The Global Working From Home Survey, commissioned by employee wellbeing specialist WRKIT, found that UK workers overwhelmingly believe that they are not equipped to work from home permanently, with workers scoring only 1.6/10 for the affirmation “I have the tools I need to do my job from home”.

Interestingly, the research suggests a cognitive dissonance between what employees are reporting, and how they actually feel. While respondents scored the tools they had to work from home at 8.4/10 in a traditional survey, the score from their Implicit Reaction Time (IRT)* came in far lower at 1.6/10. This indicates that a significant shortfall in equipment provision may be going unnoticed, or that while employees want to work from home, they may be struggling with aspects of remote working such as limited work space and childcare.

In part because of this, employees have also reported feeling isolated when working remotely. When asked about how effectively technology has been able to reconnect teams working from home, UK employees scored this affirmation 0.5/10 – significantly below the global reading of 3.3/10.

UK workers also scored substantially lower than their counterparts across the globe when it came to managing stress levels, with UK workers rating their capacity to manage stress while working from home at 5.1/10, compared with the global reading of 7.2/10.

The research, believed to be the first of its kind conducted on a global scale, surveyed more than 4,000 employees worldwide - 1,293 from the UK alone – on how the past year has impacted their wellbeing across six key pillars; sleep, work, life, food, and mental and physical wellbeing.

Data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found that more than a third (35%) of the UK’s workforce are still working remotely, indicating that millions of workers may be ill-equipped to carry out their roles to the required standard, in turn impacting worker productivity, wellbeing and morale.

Jason Brennan, director of leadership and wellbeing at WRKIT, said: “The sudden shift to working from home last March was intense for employees and organisations alike. While it is encouraging to see that businesses are increasingly adopting more flexible approaches to working patterns, such as hybrid working, employers must ensure that these changes amount to more than just lip service.

“If businesses are to make the permanent leap to remote working in any kind of meaningful way, they must provide realistic employee provisions to ensure that they support their staff with the tools and technology they need to work from home effectively. After all, a business is only as strong as its people and staff morale and wellbeing are paramount.”

*Research methodology

The Global Working From Home survey, conducted in partnership with neurotech research specialist TruthSayers, was launched on the 24th of August 2020. Through a global total of 4,388 responses – 1,293 from the UK - it provides a large, balanced, and accurate sample, serving as a comprehensive representation of how opinions to WFH have been influenced over time and during a lockdown event.

The report’s analysis is based on a novel approach to surveying through innovative neuroscience techniques focussed on the six areas key areas of wellbeing: Mind, Sleep, Life, Work, Food and Physical Wellbeing.

Rather than just employing tick-box questionnaires, the analysis was conducted using both the traditional method and an advanced online surveying approach that measures implicit reaction time (IRT). IRT captures peoples’ immediate, intuitive, gut responses, which often differ greatly from what they explicitly say.

Unlike traditional surveys, IRT measures do not openly ask questions but measure reaction times to a variety of affirmations. In doing this, the IRT bypasses conscious thought processes by measuring the reaction time of the respondent to the various overt statements.

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