B&A reveals a set of research findings on how corporate staff can cope best with working from home (WFH) and has rolled out a new survey on employee well-being and engagement
Employee well-being is a broad concept, covering not only physical and mental well-being, but also staff engagement, job satisfaction, organisational culture, diversity, and beyond. The issue has grown in importance in Ireland in recent, as companies begin to see the positive impact that it can have on morale and productivity, staff recruitment and retention.
The growth in interest in this area was greatly influenced by the rise of FDI companies based here, many of which come with comprehensive employee well-being programmes. At a national level, employee well-being is also starting to be prioritised through initiatives such as ‘Healthy Workplace’ from the Department of Health and Healthy Ireland.
CSO data collected in April, showed that 47 per cent of the population saw their job situation affected by the Covid-19 crisis, rising to 66 per cent of those aged 35-44 years. Of the impacted 47 per cent, a third started working from home (WFH). It compared to just 14 per cent who had been WFH before the crisis (Irish Labour Force Survey, 2017 – 2019).
Ultimately, Irish companies have had to completely change how they operate and engage with employees, virtually overnight. To support B&A staff and help our clients to do the same, the company designed a simple and free to use survey, along with the Marketing Institute, aimed at tracking staff well-being and engagement in real-time.
The survey used a comprehensive dashboard and bench marked it against anonymous aggregate results from the other companies that took part. Over 1,300 employees from various industries took part in the study at the height of the lockdown in April and early May. The findings revealed some key insights into the problems faced by employees.
It provided guidance for employers on the priorities that should be addressed. Disconnect emerged as a major issue for employees when they are unable to attend their usual workplace. B&A’s results showed that 65 per cent of employees felt isolated from their co-workers and colleagues, rising to 71 per cent for those aged 55 and over.
Compounding this, 73 per cent also felt isolated from friends and family.
While some companies have begun a phased return to the office, many employees continue to work from home either all or part-time. As WFH to some extent is likely to continue in the coming months, an important consideration for employers is how to support co-worker interaction and create a sense of collaboration while remote working.
Our results revealed that half of employees felt more stressed about work, which may be partially explained by the finding that 39 per cent felt their workload had increased since the start of the pandemic. The unique challenges which WFH presents may also be having an impact here, and these will be discussed in further detail below.
Some 55 per cent felt stressed about their financial position and outlook, rising to 62 per cent for under 35s. It is important for employers to keep this in mind and to signpost employees toward available emotional supports, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), which may help them manage any worry or anxiety they may be feeling.
Challenges relating to the practical aspects of WFH emerged as being significant for a notable proportion of employees, with 22 per cent saying they do not have a suitable workspace at home, they don’t have the equipment they need to do their job (one in five) and their immediate supervisor isn’t communicating effectively with them (one in five).
With these challenges in mind, it’s perhaps unsurprising that 39 per cent of corporate employees feel their job is not as easy to do at home as it is in the workplace, rising to 42 per cent among people aged 45 and over. Insofar as possible, employers should ensure employees have the right set-up at home to allow them work as efficiently as possible.
However, there interruptions and difficulties with WFH which cannot be fully controlled, an issue which employers need to appreciate. Despite this, 53 per cent of employees would like to continue WFH to some extent. Drawbacks are levelled off to some extent by advantages like increased flexibility, less time spent commuting and a better work-life balance.
For WFH to continue successfully, employers must focus on addressing the core challenges, in particular employee isolation and disconnect, communication and issues with employees’ remote working set-up. Similar co-operation and flexibility from employees will also be needed to ensure productivity is maintained while working remotely.
The WFH research report is based on a sample of 1, 339 corporate employees.
Fieldwork was conducted during April and early May.
Rachael Joyce is senior research executive at B&A; email@example.com
Kate Corneille is research executive at B&A; firstname.lastname@example.org