Much of the past two years has been a stress-test for flexible working. While many professionals enjoyed the ability to work remotely before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not until early 2020 that it became the only viable option for those in white-collar roles; indeed, in some countries, government regulations stated that, wherever possible, working from home (WFH) should become compulsory during lockdowns.
However, another significant change is underway now. Having settled into those unorthodox arrangements in recent months, many employees are being encouraged to come back into the office – in most cases, at least once or twice a week.
Here at Soffos, we recently commissioned an independent survey of more than 1,200 UK workers to assess their feelings towards these changes and their resultant plans for 2022. Interestingly, significant numbers of professionals have become unwavering in their demand for flexibility: half (50%) believe employees should have a legal right to request flexible working arrangements from their first day of a new job.
Meanwhile, of those actively looking – or considering looking – for a new job in the coming 12 months, the same number (50%) want their next role to allow fully remote working.
Supporting a new generation of remote workers
It makes sense that the modern workplace should be built with flexibility in mind. New technologies, ubiquitous Wi-Fi and convenient communication platforms mean that white-collar workers no longer need to be confined to their office desk to perform well.
Yet the policies and structures that were introduced as companies scrambled to adapt to WFH practices must now evolve to meet employees’ largely unfulfilled needs. To understand the reservations of those exploring fully remote or hybrid options in the coming year, we asked the respondents of our survey about the subjects they found most worrisome:
· A majority (60%) are concerned that it would be difficult to integrate into a company culture if joining a new remote or hybrid workforce.
· More than half (53%) think that a remote onboarding process would be less thorough than an in-person induction.
· 55% say that they would find it harder reaching out to new colleagues if they were limited to emails and video calls.
Clearly, work needs to be done to ensure that new starters feel comfortable and confident. A reduction in the amount of face-to-face interaction is evidently unsettling, particularly for those who think getting up to speed will be more difficult in this new setting. No doubt, seeking help, asking questions and learning the ropes will be trickier – but not impossible.
Working practices must evolve in 2022
What can businesses do to ensure any new cohort joining their company has all the tools needed to perform well as we head into the new year?
Firstly, informal mentoring would not go amiss. Our research shows that over two-thirds (69%) of people exploring new job options would like to have some in-person induction sessions or casual meet ups with managers, even if their own role was primarily remote.
Furthermore, they must ensure that all company information – whether that be policies, product details or client history – is readily accessible and easily understandable. Even when working outside the four walls of an office, employees must know where to find answers to their questions. While it might sound like a simple solution, it is one that employees are calling for: almost two-thirds (63%) of full and part-time workers say their business would benefit from having a centralized employee portal where all members of staff can ask questions and find company information.
Luckily for employers, the Soffos suite of apps is here to help. Stay tuned for updates about our upcoming product launches, and how our proprietary Cognitive AI engine that powers our underlying technology will reinvent the onboarding process.