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Is the remote working row the biggest challenge facing employers?

By NDA Staff

‘If employees don’t want to be in the office everyday, they can pretend to work somewhere else’ is a phrase coined by the world’s second richest man, Elon Musk in recent times. 

Unfortunately, Mr Musk’s opinion, when it comes to remote working, is one which is shared by a number of big business owners and their supporting boards.

A study by Stanford University in 2020 found that when working from home, staff were five per cent more efficient than office workers. This Stanford study is supported by research by RingCentral which highlighted that 51 per cent of employees think they’re more productive at home than they are at work.

So, why then when employees are more content and data shows that they’re working harder, are businesses so insistent to see them return to the office environment? 

The executive-employee disconnect

According to Global Chairman and CEO of EY, Carmine Di Sibio, said: “We’re encouraging our people to get back to the offices. We think that’s important to our culture. This is about creating a sense of truly being part of a team and being in it together at all costs and the level of die-hard commitment that comes with all that.”

According to a survey conducted by Slack, there’s a major ‘executive-employee disconnect’ when it comes to the topic of working from home. The report detailed that 44% of executives were supportive of returning to the office every day in comparison to only 17% of employees.

But obviously there’s more than their personal productivity that’s making employees feel like the remote working offer is more appealing – and you wouldn’t be wrong to think this. 

Why staff want to be at home conducted a survey in February in a bid to find out the real reasons why staff don’t want to return to the office – surprisingly, it isn’t productivity. 

Obviously, balance and the opportunity to commit more time to family life came out on top but, following this, interestingly, the most common reason for not wanting to return to work is to ensure more time spent with pets. 

In the first 12 months of lockdown, from March 2020 to March 2021, 3.2 million new UK households acquired a pet. Pandemic puppies and furry creatures then have become a standout reason for the popularity of working from home with 75% of remote workers saying they want to work at home to spend time with their pets.

This is then followed by 73% of staff suggesting that they want to watch TV while they’re working and 72% saying that they want the ability to nap or workout during the day. Whether it’s a lunch 5k or some quick, post-lunch shut eye, there’s a definite requirement to get an hour back during the day, to do something productive (or unproductive) that isn’t work-related. 

Other reasons include the commute into this office and appearance, including not having to dress up everyday. 

In reference to the latter of the two reasons, a number of employees have been able to significantly strip back their wardrobe from one that was focused mainly around appropriate office attire, to one that is suitable for day-to-day life working from home, socialising, working out and more. This is in relation to everything from joggers and sweatshirts to socks and trainers – or a lack thereof. 

What the future holds

We’re aware that all business owners and managers aren’t going to take the same stance as Elon Musk but clearly there’s a need for a more concrete solution – mainly due to the fact 25% of employees will quit if forced to return to the office on a permanent basis, based on a report by King’s College. So much so, Gartner discovered that only 3% of companies would fire non-compliant employees when it came to a full-return to work. 

Based on the fact employees are considering fully remote positions ahead of hybrid or completely office based roles, if businesses offering the latter are to continue attracting the highest calibre of talent, they need to make some concessions. 

Pay will inevitably be the first port of call for employees. Businesses may be tempted to offer staff an additional percentage on their annual salary in a bid to cover their cost of commuting, which may prove a rather appealing incentive. Fortune has suggested the possibility of a 20% pay rise for staff expected to attend the office everyday while a 10% rise for those looking at a hybrid structure. 

Of course, there is also the office itself and what if offers. Why would staff want to leave the comfort of their own home to sit in traffic or on public transport for an hour before arriving in a bleak, dark room for a nine hour shift? 

Well, there’s a lot to be said for creating a welcoming environment. We’re not suggesting that a couple of pot plants and a bowl of fruit on a Friday morning will be enough to lure in the masses but by making positive changes to the workplace, you may find the office becomes ever so slightly more appealing. Think inclusivity and wellbeing. 

Let’s face it, some staff will rejoice in returning to work. But, for many, now they’ve had the taste of freedom provided by the pandemic induced working conditions we were subjected to, getting them on board will require compromise. It’s up to businesses now to choose their stance.