Businesses warned of a looming crisis of trust in 2021

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Organisations face a crisis of trust this year if they continue to make workplace decisions in the dark.

This is the stark warning to businesses from Leesman, the world’s leading independent assessor of employee workplace experience.

A major study across 145,000+ global employees has revealed a series of acute factors impacting an employees’ ability to work remotely. Leesman warns that organisations which leave these stress points unchecked risk dismantling years of organisational development. 

As millions of knowledge workers around the globe once again face tougher restrictions on movement and are ordered to work from home if they can, organisations which prolong decisions about the role of office-based and remote working in their post-pandemic work landscape further risk employees disconnecting with colleagues and the organisation.

According to Dr Peggie Rothe, Chief Insights & Research Officer at Leesman, organisations need a more comprehensive understanding of their employees’ experience to accurately model their post-pandemic work landscape.

Dr Rothe explains: “In times of change, employees need to know what to expect from their workplace when the turbulence ends. Without this clarity, employers risk losing those employees that they have spent years developing. And as the global pandemic and the remote working revolution together have removed the geographic boundaries previously limiting organisations’ talent strategies, we are approaching a new war for talent.”

Leesman’s research, published in a new report titled ‘Your Workplace of the Future’, reveals that both the physical workplaces that employers offer and the remote work setting the individual employee has available to them are critical in that risk assessment.

Insights from the ongoing home working study serve as a stark warning, revealing that the ability to learn from others is under threat, with a third (33.7%) of employees reporting that this activity is not supported when working remotely. Nearly half (43.9%) do not agree that their home environment supports ‘informal social interaction’, and a further 28.2% cannot agree that their home set up allows them to collaborate on creative work. More than three in 10 (30.2%) dispersed employees feel disconnected to their organisation, and 27.8% are unable to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

On a subset of the data across 22,000+ respondents who reported on both their office and home working experience at the same time, four key variables were found to have the greatest impact on these critical outcomes:

The nature of the home work setting available to an employee

Data consistently found that employees’ physical home settings offer the strongest indicator of their overall remote working experience. Employees with a separate space have a better experience than those without. But for those without a space they can dedicate to work, the negativity towards factors such as learning and social connectivity becomes acute. Without an understanding of this fundamental information, employers will find it impossible to instruct their future workplace strategy.

The complexity of an employee’s role

From individual, desk-based work to creative thinking, the more variety and complexity in types of work activities, the more challenging it is for their work environment to support those different needs. Data showed that employees with less complex roles were more likely to be able to work effectively remotely than those that had greater diversity in the number of activities that make up a typical working day. The more complex an employee’s role, the less likely it is that their home supports their work.

The extent to which employees need to collaborate

While the vast majority of employees agree that they have the remote technology tools they need, the extent to which they need to collaborate in their role still has a bearing on which location they felt was best suited to their role. But the data also showed that this individual or collaborative split was rarely as binary as many commentators suggest, with few employees falling into either the highly collaborative or highly individual categorisations.

The experience employees had in the workplaces they used pre-pandemic

The quality and effectiveness of the spaces previously provided for employees has been shown to strongly impact how they now rate their remote experience. And the better the experience of those corporate workplaces pre-pandemic, the more time employees want to spend back there when it is safe to do so.

Tim Oldman, Leesman CEO and founder, comments: “The pandemic has undoubtedly compressed years of remote working evolution into a matter of months and, on the whole, with much success. But with vaccination programmes underway in many countries, organisations must urgently turn their attentions to their post-pandemic workplace thinking.

“Executive leadership teams must get to grips with how their employees’ experiences, attitudes and expectations have changed and ready their strategies for where employees will be based in the future. Employees’ demand for clarity and certainty will only increase as global vaccination programmes ramp up, so clear plans, evidenced with front line employee experience data, will be more in demand than ever before.”