CIPD - Two thirds of employers report home workers more or as productive as when in the workplace, but cite need to support their mental health

17 Sep 2020 10:47 AM

CIPD research also highlights risks of two-tier workforce, as gap set to grow between home workers and other employees who have to go to work and have little flexibility

New research by the CIPD shows the shift to home working over the pandemic has been a positive experience for most employers, who report people’s improved work-life balance (cited by 61% of employers), enhanced employee collaboration (43%) and improved focus (38%).   

Overall, 28% of employers report that the increase in home working has boosted productivity, while 37% say it has not impacted productivity levels, with 28% of employers reporting a decrease.   

However, the research also highlights the challenges of managing home workers with employers highlighting reduced staff mental wellbeing (47%), problems with staff interaction/co-operation (36%) and difficulties with line managing home workers (33%) and monitoring their performance (28%).    

Nonetheless, the research Embedding New Ways of Working, based on a survey of more than 1,000 employers and 12 in-depth organisation case studies, shows the benefits significantly outweigh the challenges, and that a large majority of employers are planning to introduce or expand the use of home working once the crisis is over. 

However, employers are much less likely to be planning to introduce or increase other forms of flexible working, for example: annualised hours, term-time working, compressed hours or job sharing, which can be used by workers who are unable to work from home.   

Peter Cheese, CIPD CEO, comments: 

“The step-change shift to home working to adapt to lockdowns has taught us all a lot about how we can be flexible in ways of working in the future. This should be a catalyst to change long held paradigms and beliefs about work for the benefit of many. Employers have learnt that, if supported and managed properly, home working can be as productive and innovative as office working and we can give more opportunity for people to benefit from better work-life balance. This can also help with inclusion and how we can create positive work opportunities across our economies. 

“But it doesn’t suit everyone and increasingly organisations will have to design working arrangements around people’s choice and personal preference over where and when they would like to work, whilst also meeting the needs of the business.

“Employers will also have to redouble efforts to introduce flexible working arrangements for staff unable to work from home otherwise they will increasingly have a two-tier workforce of those who have opportunity to benefit from home working and flexibility and those who don’t.   

“It is often essential workers and lower paid front line staff who are not able to work from home and it is crucial these workers are not left behind when we think about flexible working. Making the right to request flexible working a day one right would support the uptake of a wider range of flexible working beyond home working.” 

Key findings from the research include: