Many would be forgiven for assuming that every business would recognise that the almost overnight pivot to remote working by virtually all firms due to Covid-19 was not the disaster many feared, with remote workers as or more than productive than before the pandemic.
However, research from Ricoh Europe has revealed that, in the UK at least, the majority of management has not bought into the new normal.
The UK element of a study conducted by Opinion Matters for Ricoh Europe, polling 1,500 decision makers across Europe, found that many UK organisations are considering their return-to-work policies, and suggest that the pandemic has eroded confidence in a remote workforce.
Specifically, barely over a third (35%) of employers trusted their staff fully while working remotely, with 39% suggesting their people don’t work as hard or effectively as in the office.
Ricoh noted that the waning trust among employers suggested they want workers to return to the office full time when coronavirus restrictions ease across the continent, rather than allowing workers to choose some form of hybrid working.
Yet despite their concerns and diminishing trust, just 19% of employers said that productivity decreased since they transitioned to remote working, while an additional 57% regarded investing in flexible working technology as essential to attracting and retaining talent.
The study also made clear that a full-time return was an undesirable option for many employees are comfortable, with 42% of decision-makers reporting that their teams are worried about returning to the office when restrictions ease due to concerns around health and safety. The study warned that a failure to acknowledge these concerns could affect morale and risk losing good people.
“Having an office-based workforce is vitally important to the success of our business, as it is for most across the continent. The office will never go away – not least as the undisputed environment for optimal productivity, ideation, and developing relationships with colleagues,” said Ricoh Europe CEO David Mills.
“The challenge for business leaders is to remain mindful that remote and hybrid working are two different things. It stands to reason that less commuting, a greater sense of flexibility and having the trust of your manager are significant contributing factors to a more empowered and inspired workforce. This puts the onus on leaders to make their hybrid work model as successful as possible.”
Drawing on its research to issue a call to action, Ricoh said that while there were undoubtedly some tasks that gain from having everyone in the same room, it was essential that employers recognised the evolving requirements of their talent pool.
This means providing workers with the tools that help increase collaboration, productivity and enjoyment of work, regardless of whether they’re in the office full or part time, said Ricoh.
“At Ricoh Europe, we have created a hybrid working policy where staff can opt to spend 50% of their time working from home and 50% of their time in the office,”said Ricoh Europe COO Nicola Downing. “We’re proud to offer this as we support work-life balance and understand its importance to both existing and prospective employees in search of modern and flexible working.”