Furloughed employees feel less valued and trusted by employers than those who remained working

LONDON—As the UK today marks six months since lockdown, a new survey published by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has found that while 78% of those who experienced a change in workplace felt that they had experienced positive impacts, furloughed employees have had a significantly different experience.

Only one-third of UK employees (32%) returning from furlough feel trusted by employers to do their work remotely, compared to four-fifths (82%) of non-furloughed employees that say the same. The survey also found that one third (34%) of workers who had been furloughed did not feel more valued by their employers post lockdown, compared to one fifth (20%) that had not been.

The Future of Work survey was conducted amongst 2,000 currently employed part or full-time employees to understand perceptions of their current working model and how they would like to work in the future. The launch of the survey comes just before the planned end of the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme, scheduled for the 31st of October.

The survey also found that although three-quarters of employees who were furloughed believed their employer supported job retention (71%) and employee safety (76%), they felt less satisfied about their employer’s considerations for the return to the office than those who have been working remotely. 56% of those furloughed believe their employer would only allow them to return to their workplace when its safe, versus 77% of employees who weren’t.

When looking at those who experienced a change in workplace, 22% stated they did not experience any negative impacts at all, and many benefitted from improvements such as reduced commute times (51%), flexibility around working hours (38%) and decreased distractions (15%).

Nick South, a Managing Director and Partner at BCG said:Furloughing large numbers of employees was the only option for many companies as the UK went into lockdown in March. However, six months on, employees who have been working remotely feel much more valued and trusted to work remotely than those who have been furloughed. As organisations work out how they are going bring people back to the workplace and operate going forward, they need to recognize the very different experiences that their employees have had – and their different aspirations for working in the future”.

The data shows that now more than ever, employers need to engage actively with employees on what matters to them and implement new ways of working that keep all employees motivated and productive, especially those returning from furlough. In addition, employers will need to be empathetic to individual circumstances, consider how to be as flexible as possible and offer alternative options for employees in different situations.

South added, “As the furlough scheme comes to an end, leaders need to think carefully about the different challenges that individuals have experienced and what specific needs their employees have. This virus has highlighted the need for empathetic leadership. Senior leaders who may have had a relatively positive experience in lockdown need to ensure they listen to their employees to understand individual experiences and take steps to ensure they continue to feel valued and trusted in this new reality.”

Key steps include:

  • Identify ways to support different groups, such as older workers or those with family responsibilities, to ensure all workers feel valued and have equal opportunities for learning, mentoring and career progression.
  • Develop new ways to keep people connected, for example virtual coffee breaks and similar innovations that create new types of “watercooler” moments in our day-to-day work.
  • Support employees’ mental and physical health by providing adequate resources such as complementary counselling sessions, while creating new structures that make it easy for employees to remain fit and well.
  • Invest in and build digital capabilities to use the technologies and systems that enable employees to work and collaborate remotely.
  • Upskill managers to lead and engage remote teams using virtual collaboration tools and agile ways of working.

Additional findings include:

Different lock down experiences

  • 18-24 year olds were more likely than those aged 55+ to report inadequate workspace at home (24% vs 9%)
  • Parents with young children (under the age of 10) experienced better flexibility around working hours, however many also suffered from increased distractions and disruptions when working from home
  • Employees in Greater London were much more likely to have inadequate access to work space at home (23% vs 13%) and equipment (19% vs 13%) compared to the rest of the country

Attitudes towards employers

  • 50% of employees aged 18-24 who have worked remotely felt more valued by their employers post pandemic versus just 24% of older employees (aged 55+)

The future of the workplace

  • Over half of UK employees who work with other people (53%) view a hybrid model as the best model going forward, with a preference for an equal split between time spent working remotely and in the office
  • 27% of employees who work with other people prefer an all-office model, and 12% a fully remote model
  • Older employees miss human contact, whilst youngest employees are divided; they showed the highest interest in remote work but a similarly high interest in returning to the office; the greatest barriers to remote work for young workers include inadequate home set-up and potentially missing out on career development opportunities
  • Those with someone high risk in their household are nearly three times more likely to prefer a fully remote model (27% vs 10%)
  • 75% of those with a commute >1h and work with others want a hybrid work model, whereas 42% of those with a <10min commute want everyone in the office

ABOUT THE SURVEY

The BCG employee sentiment survey was conducted by Ipsos* and ran from August 24th-31st 2020. Of the 2,000 respondents, 61% changed their work location as a result of COVID-19 while 25% continued to work in their pre-COVID setting. 8% of employees were still furloughed at the time of the survey, and therefore have been excluded from the analysis as they are not likely to have experienced changes to their work environment. The 5% of employees that marked their current location as “Other” were also excluded from analysis. Note that 21% of respondents in total were furloughed at some point over the last 6 months (compared to the national average of 26%); over half of those have now returned to work and have been included in this analysis.

Source for national average: Average of 8.6m on furlough between Apr – Aug (HMRC), working population of 33m (ONS)

*Ipsos MORI assisted with the questionnaire design and was responsible for the sample, the fieldwork and provision of data only. The data analysis, interpretation and reporting of the survey data was the full responsibility of the Boston Consulting Group.

To arrange an interview on the findings, please contact Rebecca Cummins at +44 07825 732 083 or cummins.rebecca@bcg.com.

About Boston Consulting Group

Boston Consulting Group partners with leaders in business and society to tackle their most important challenges and capture their greatest opportunities. BCG was the pioneer in business strategy when it was founded in 1963. Today, we help clients with total transformation—inspiring complex change, enabling organizations to grow, building competitive advantage, and driving bottom-line impact.

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