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Quarter of firms looking to downsize or close locations post-pandemic

Duncan Casemore, Co-Founder & CTO - Applaud

UK business HR decision makers are paving the way for a new era of work post-pandemic, with organisations across the country looking to close or downsize their offices and focus instead on hybrid, remote working.

With many office workers having worked remotely or in a hybrid environment for over a year, business attitudes towards on premise locations and flexible working are changing . 26% of UK businesses are now set to close, downsize or consolidate their offices post pandemic as a result, while over half (53%) will now enable some form of flexible and remote working.

The findings form part of a piece of research conducted on behalf of Applaud by the UK data analytics and market research firm YouGov, which looked at workplace trends post-pandemic. Interviewing key business HR decision makers across the UK, the research found that the pandemic has made organisations reevaluate the office, looking to shift investments towards remote working tech and their HR teams instead.

The research, which saw HR Decision Makers at 500 small, medium and large organisations interviewed, revealed that 53% of organisations will no longer require employees to come into the office five days a week; allowing them to work from home or remotely. 14% went as far as to say they will not require employees to visit the office at all, while 30% expected them in between 1 to 3 days.

The shake up in the way we work is likely to have lasting impact on business employee relations. The pandemic, which forced millions of workers into remote working almost overnight has offered organisations plenty of time to reflect on their existing processes.

44% admitted that their HR department was not equipped to deal with remote working during the early stages of the pandemic, with 43% having invested over the past few months in their HR teams to improve the situation. 35% are planning to develop an employee engagement role distinct from traditional HR to support staff engagement and improve employee experience remotely.

Sitting alongside this significant HR investment, respondents also revealed that they want to spend significant resources rewarding employees as the damage of the pandemic looks to soften. 18% revealed they will look to give employees better pay and or promotions in the coming months while 46% will implement better remote working tools to ensure continued engagement and productivity in a remote working future. 

Commenting on the research Duncan Casemore, Co-founder and CTO, Applaud said: “When it comes to the way we work, organisations are embarking on an era of unprecedented change. Driven by employee experience, business leaders are turning away from the traditional five days in the office format, instead moving to provide more productive flexible and remote working scenarios.

“While there has been great clamour from the workforce to implement more flexibility in the way we work, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the catalyst to initiate these changes. To ensure employees remain productive while remote working, organisations must continue to invest in the HR technologies that offer a consumer-grade worker experience, and which keep remote employees motivated and happy.”

Reflecting on the changing work environment of the future, Aaron Alburey, Managing Director and Co-founder of LACE Partners (a leading HR Boutique) said “People leaders in organisations now face a significant challenge, how to retain the benefits of remote working whilst offering a return to the office.  CPOs need to focus on refining policies, retraining Line Managers to avoid bias towards face to face, avoiding accidental exclusion of home workers, and to create an experience that encompasses both those at home and in the office.”

The survey was conducted by market research and data analytics group YouGov who interviewed 503 HR decision makers at UK small (10 – 49 employee), medium (50-249 employee) and large (250+ employee) businesses.

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