Employees working from home are happier but less engaged

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Date: 28 April 2020

Young woman working from home office in a cozy kitchen

A new study has assessed how UK employees are coping with working life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The global study, conducted by Toluna and Harris Interactive, includes a survey of 607 employees from the UK. The findings show that UK employees are reporting improvements in productivity and mental health over the past few weeks and see light at the end of the tunnel, but commitment, motivation and general satisfaction with their job and employer have declined.

It means that employers are likely to face challenges rebuilding employee engagement with the business and ensuring a healthy organisation when lockdown ends.

"Employee engagement has taken a major hit as a result of the pandemic, even more so than the financial crisis of 2008," said Vijay Mistry, head of employee experience research for Harris Interactive and Toluna.

"This week's results indicate that it could be some time before organisations see employee engagement bounce back to pre-pandemic levels … Engagement enhances business performance and competitive advantage, so rallying employees is paramount to survival today and success in the future as the landscape begins to normalise."

Key findings include:

  • 46% of UK employees expect to return to their normal place of work within two months;
  • 57% of UK employees are either enthusiastic or relieved about the thought of returning to their normal working arrangements;
  • 25% of employees expect pressure to be much higher when they return to work;
  • 36% believe there will be salary, promotion or recruitment freezes;
  • 30% are expecting more redundancies.

"It's clear that UK workers have adapted well to their new remote working arrangements, but there is a growing appetite for structure and routine," said Mistry. "Although employees have accepted their current situations as the 'new normal' and hope to see greater flexibility in working arrangements when they return to an office environment, they recognise the current work-life situation is not a permanent one."

Lockdown has revealed the realities of working from home for both employees and their employers. The study has found that 51% of workers think there will be increased flexibility around working hours and schedules after lockdown and 47% expect to see improvements around home working arrangements, thanks to online collaboration tools.

Only 35% of respondents said they were less productive working remotely, although 44% said their workload is lower than normal, with just 5% saying their workload is higher.

"Businesses have made excuses for years to limit people from working remotely, despite increasing employee calls for flexibility," said Mistry. "The excuse of impossibility will no longer hold up. Employees are not only comfortable working remotely but have demonstrated they can be just as productive at home."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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