Employees demand greater ownership and choice in the ‘new normal’ of work

Cisco survey shows flexible future for work, with three-quarters of UK office workers wanting to choose whether to work from home or office, and manage their hours

UK employees are keen to keep hold of many positives that have emerged from the new way of working during the pandemic, according to a study from Cisco.

The study, Workforce of the future, surveyed 10,000 people across 12 markets in Europe, the Middle East and Russia between 11 and 25 August 2020, including workers in businesses with from two to 500-plus employees across a number of sectors.

It asked office-based staff for their expectations of employers from 2021 onwards, and results show that employees see this as a watershed moment, challenging culture norms around the workplace. 

The survey found that the two main benefits of the “new normal” were increased autonomy (66%) and working well as a dispersed team (65%). Three-fifths of respondents wanted to keep hold of faster decision-making.

Reflecting on the last six months, more than two-thirds (68%) said they now have a greater appreciation of the benefits and challenges of working from home. Meanwhile, leaders showed increased trust in their teams to do their jobs well (41%). Employees said they were able to better balance their life around work, with 59% incorporating more exercise into their daily routine. In a similar spirit, 65% wanted to continue travelling less and use that time more productively.

In the UK, even though only 6% of respondents worked from home most of the time before the lockdown, now an overwhelming majority hope to retain this greater autonomy. Some 74% want greater ownership in defining how and when they use office space – blending between being office-based and working remotely.

At the heart of the new normal will be collaboration technologies and digital skills, two elements that the survey said provided a solid foundation for business resilience and growth. And if given the chance to be CEO for a day, employees said they would prioritise embedding effective communication and collaboration, above everything else.

For that to happen, 79% of employees said businesses need to provide their workforce with similar technology at home as in the office. Nearly two-thirds (65%) agreed that one of the big positives to come from lockdown is proof that employees don’t need to be in the same room to collaborate effectively.

Read more about the new normal of work

Looking at how workers are planning for 2021, employees believe the 2021 budget priorities for their business should be centred on investing in the technologies needed for remote work and bringing in technology to make the office a safer space from a health perspective. Employees of all ages also called for upskilling, with 77% thinking more training on technology and digital skills will be fundamental to business success in 2021.

Commenting on Workforce of the future survey, David Meads, chief executive UK & Ireland at Cisco, said companies were running at a pivotal moment when employers must harness the power of technology to remain competitive and deliver an inclusive future that meets people’s desires and needs.

“The pandemic has proven that businesses must listen to their employees and how their working practices have now shifted,” he said. “An inclusive culture, along with the right collaboration tools to connect employees no matter where they choose to work, will be key to building business resiliency. In fostering a workforce that is nimble, adaptable and positioned to withstand uncertainties, businesses are better positioned to thrive.”

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