UK bosses warned staff may quit unless offered flexibility

03 August 2021 3 min. read
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Around half of all employees in the UK would consider leaving their jobs if not afforded flexibility in when their working hours and locations. The news comes as employers consider how to best return to the office, after the UK removed Covid-19 restrictions to its residents.

When the Covid-19 pandemic first necessitated remote working, many bosses entered lockdown concerned that their staff would experience falls in productivity. Following a rapid period of adjustment, where firms rolled out technology to help facilitate remote working en masse, however, the majority actually found that productivity increased. Many studies have since pointed out that both employers and staff are increasingly in favour of continued flexibility, after the lockdown measures retracted.

However, some employers are determined to return to ‘normal’ as swiftly as possible. For example, there is mounting pressure on the Government from some Conservative MPs, who are pressing Boris Johnson’s administration to speed up the return to work in Westminster for civil servants as the pandemic shows signs of easing this summer.

UK bosses warned staff may quit unless offered flexibility

Such a campaign had been planned for last summer but was ditched when Covid cases began to surge again. This time as restrictions roll back, multiple well-placed government figures told The Telegraph that there are no plans for a major campaign encouraging the return to pre-Covid office working in the near future – something which might be for the best if the Government is keen to avoid a staffing crisis.

According to new research from EY, four-fifths of the British workforce want flexibility in when or where they work. If they are not afforded this, 47% of employees in the UK would consider leaving their job.

In one of the largest global surveys of its kind, EY canvassed the views of more than  1,000 people from the UK, across multiple different industries and regions, and 16,000 globally, to explore their attitudes and experiences to work throughout the pandemic and into the ‘next normal’.

In the end, 39% of respondents said they wanted flexibility in when they work, and 43% want flexibility in where they work. On average, this saw respondents opt to work between two and three days remotely post-pandemic. Meanwhile, when pandemic restrictions ease, just 19% would prefer to work full time in the office. At the same time, 61% believe the last year has proven that their productivity can be accurately measured irrespective of location.

Seema Farazi, EY People Advisory Services Partner, commented, “Organisational culture has historically been built based on shared in-person experiences and it is fascinating to see that the new ways of working have improved such culture in the eyes of many employees. As we look towards the longer-term as organisations continue to transform their operations, employers will need to consistently re-assess conceptions of productivity and the impact on their cultures, ensuring their approach is optimised for the in-person, hybrid and digital work experience.”

This could also present opportunities to businesses looking to cut costs and downsize their emissions footprint. Only 51% of workers would like to travel for business moderately to extensively after the Covid-19 pandemic. Farazi added that businesses should be looking to use their return to business travel models “to drive more sustainable global practices,” especially alongside the post-Brexit changes for cross border workers. Remote working could prove enable such work to continue easily and without incurring larger CO2 emissions.