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COVID-19 one year on: a nation divided on the future of the 9-to-5

Simon Winfield - Hays

Workers across the UK are divided on whether the traditional 9-5 way of working will return according to new research from recruiting experts, Hays.

One year on from the start of the first UK lockdown and with many workers continuing to work from home, over a third (35%) of professionals believe the 9-5 won’t return. 34% believe the traditional 9-5 working week will return, whilst 31% are unsure.

The survey, which received over 4,200 responses revealed generations are also divided when it comes to future ways of working. Over two-fifths of Baby Boomers think the 9-5 way of working won’t return, compared to just 27% of Gen Z and 31% of Millennials.

Professionals working in London are most likely to think traditional ways of working won’t return (41%), followed by those working in the North West (38%). Those working in the North East (24%) and Northern Ireland (27%) are least likely to believe traditional ways of working won’t return.

Poor morale and remote working agreements set to challenge employers

One year on since professionals set up their workspace at home, workers say their biggest professional challenge of the last 12 months has been a lack of interaction with colleagues (32%), followed by finding a new role (30%) challenges with remote working (25%) and a lack of motivation (24%).

When professionals transition back to the workplace, the greatest challenges expected include organising remote working agreements (23%), addressing poor morale and motivation (21%) and a reduced workforce (11%). A further 14% say they do not expect to transition back to the workplace at all.

Regionally, remote working agreements are anticipated as the biggest challenge for those working in Greater London (29%), South East England (26%), and the North West (24%). Elsewhere, poor morale and motivation is set to be the greatest challenge for regions including Northern Ireland (29%), the East Midlands (25%), Scotland and Yorkshire and the Humber (both 24%).

Simon Winfield, Managing Director of Hays UK & Ireland, commented: “One year on from when we were told to work from home, it’s undeniable that the challenges that workers and employers have had to negotiate have changed the world of work forever. The jury is still out on whether we will see a return of the ‘9-5’.

Before their teams return to the workplace, employers need to ensure they have remote and hybrid agreements in place. Not all employees will want the option to work remotely, however many have welcomed the benefits that come with working from home and are likely to want to continue to do so in some form once Covid-19 is no longer a threat.

Survey results also show that professionals expect morale and motivation to be an issue when returning to the workplace. I’d urge employers to get ahead of the game and think about how they can re-engage their workforce once it is safe for everyone to work in a hybrid way. Don’t downplay the effects the pandemic has had on your staff – prioritise wellbeing, and foster open, authentic and honest communication.”

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