Is the mass adoption of remote working revolutionising the UK for the better or exasperating existing management challenges? The answer is both. Although a shift to online work programmes has produced unique challenges for business and management leaders, the benefits of remote work far outweigh the disadvantages.
Learn more about the current realities of remote work in the UK, the latest trends in remote working, the future of remote working models in the UK, and the collateral impact on the labour market.
The Evolution of Remote Working in the UK
Prior to 2020, organisations were slowly moving towards a remote-working landscape, but the majority of UK workers continued to work in designated workplaces. In 2015, only 4.3% of the UK population worked from home. This number increased slightly to 5.1% during the period of January to December in 2019.
The coronavirus pandemic expedited this shift and in April 2020 46.6% of people employed in the UK reported that they partly worked from home. Of those who reported working from home, 86% said they made the shift as a result of COVID-19. It’s possible that remote working is “the new normal” and will impact the UK labour market long after the COVID-19 pandemic draws to a close.
What Does Work Look Like for UK Professionals Right Now?
In June 2020, a survey found that approximately 49% of UK businesses were creating plans surrounding how to return staff to offices. Of those businesses, 49% opted for a staggered return to the office based on health risks and 46% are planning based on how critical their workforces roles were. Altered work hours, splitting shifts, and voluntary back-to-work programmes emerged to keep employees safe.
Despite the optimistic plans to return to the workplace, many UK businesses continue to support remote working in 2021. According to an analysis conducted by Finder, 60% of the UK’s adult population are currently working from home and 26% of Brits plan to continue to work from home permanently or part-time after lockdown.
The Benefits of Remote Work
Global Workplace Analytics, a leading authority on the future of work, released a comprehensive list of the pros and cons of remote working. The study found that the benefits of remote work far outweigh the challenges for companies
Company Benefits of Remote Working
- Improves employee satisfaction: 79% of people want to work from home and one study found that 37% of professionals would even take a pay cut to work remotely.
- Retain employees and reduce turnover: 46% of companies that allow telecommuting say it has reduced attrition and 72% of employers say remote working has a high impact on employee retention.
- Reduces unscheduled absences: Remote working reduces unscheduled absences by 63%.
- Saves employers money: Remote working reduced overhead costs for employers and six out of ten employers reported that cost savings were a significant benefit attributed to remote working.
- Expands the talent pool: Hiring employees online offers employers a larger pool of talent to choose from.
Employee Benefits of Remote Working
- Increases productivity: Two-thirds of employees say they’re more productive when working from home.
- Saves employees money: The total of 23.9 million Brits working from home saves around £1.1 billion every week.
- Increases employee empowerment: Remote working requires employees to be self-governing, autonomous, and independent.
- Expands job opportunities: Employees working remotely can apply to jobs located in different cities and countries, which widens their selection in the job market.
- Assures continuity of operations during a crisis: The COVID-19 pandemic spurred rapid change and remote working enabled companies to be agile and continue operating.
- Increases leisure time: Commuting is time-consuming and studies show that remote working full-time results in an extra two to three workweeks of leisure time a year.
- Creates visibility for those with disabilities: People living with disabilities or health conditions and injuries make up 10% of the global workforce. Remote working allows individuals with visible and invisible disabilities to work more comfortably and begin important conversations with their employers about health and work.
The Challenges of Remote Work
- Loneliness: One in five remote workers have said they struggle with loneliness.
- Management mistrust: 75% of managers say they trust their employees, but one in three say they would prefer to see their employees working in person to feel certain.
- It’s not for everyone: 39% of UK professionals say they don’t want to work from home once coronavirus is done.
- Overworking: The UK has seen workers increase their average workday by two hours since implementing remote working.
- Lack of internal upskilling and reskilling: 25% of employees said working from home has negatively affected their training and development.
The Future of Remote Working in the UK
According to the Remote Work Trends Forecast for 2021 and 2022 remote working is here to stay. Business and management professionals in the UK will aim to iron out the present challenges presented by online work. Here are a few trends you should look out for in the future of remote working.
Mental Health Initiatives
A new study has found that 46% of UK employees believe remote working is negatively impacting their mental health. Three in five employees want casual contact with coworkers, over half of employees want social time to be integrated within the remote working model, and over half of employees require increased mental health support.
The in-person workplace offers organic interactions among people, whether it’s in a face-to-face meeting or at the water cooler during lunch. The future of remote working will prioritise social interaction in a virtual setting and implement more mental health programmes to alleviate social isolation and bolster employee well-being.
Managers will move away from micromanaging remote workers and prioritise tracking completed goals and objectives. The future of remote working will feature advanced performance measurement systems which measure what employees do, not where or how they do it.
Managers will use video conferencing to connect with teammates in meetings and may invest in tools and technology that allow them to measure the productivity of remote workers. Platforms like Workplace Analytics grant business and management professionals access to enterprise-level data that can detect patterns in work behaviour, goal completion, and productivity rates.
The future of remote work in the UK will offer workers multiple options. Employers are aiming for hybrid models, where staff split their time between working from home and working in the office. A survey found that large corporations like PwC, Lloyds, Barclays, BT, Aon, and Virgin Media will implement hybrid models to meet the needs of their team.
As a direct result, companies will be scaling back office space. According to the Financial Times, three-quarters of midsized businesses have started, or are currently considering, reducing their office space.
Flexible Work Schedules
The Future Work Trend Forecast predicts that flexible work models will alter company HR policies across the world. The same forecast found that two out of three people surveyed believe that the eight-hour workday will become an inclination of the past. Flexible work hours allow remote workers to run errands or schedule appointments without booking off an entire day of work.
The future workforce in the UK will allow professionals to build flexible schedules that are attuned to their personal needs while simultaneously fulfilling the needs of the company they work for. Some studies found that workers will not accept anything but flexible-working arrangements after lockdown measures are lifted. UK workers aren’t just requesting flexible work schedules, they’re expecting them.
Retraining and Upskilling
As working professionals shift to remote working, students also make the transition to online platforms. Many professionals are taking this time to build knowledge and acquire new skills that will support their career growth.
Enrolment in online master’s programmes is at an all-time high in the UK. The total number of accepted applicants through The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) in 2020 was up by 5.4% to a new record high. In 2021, applicants were up 11% by the end of January. Retraining and upskilling help professionals learn in-demand skills and increase their employability, job outlook, and salaries as a direct result.
Study Remotely with Ease at Aston Online
Aston Online allows you to reskill and upskill in the same way you’re working: online. Named University of the Year 2020 by The Guardian, Aston’s proven excellence in higher education provides a reputable, modern learning experience that is constantly evolving with trends and technologies. Globally recognised by top accrediting bodies and independent rankings, our suite of distance learning programmes gives working professionals convenient access to quality coursework, esteemed academics and an international network.
Prepare for the future workplace by exploring online master’s programmes from Aston Online.