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As businesses quickly adapt to new working practices, research by VMware has found that almost two-thirds of HR, IT and business decision-makers recognise that their organisation is realising the benefits of remote working and cannot go back to the way it used to be.
VMware’s report The new remote work era: trends in the distributed workforce is based on a survey conducted by Vanson Bourne in June and July 2020 of 2,850 respondents in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) comprising 950 HR decision-makers, 950 IT decision-makers and 950 business decision-makers across the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Poland, Norway, Sweden, Spain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
In addition to the almost overwhelming recognition of remote working, the survey found a 41% increase in the proportion of employees across EMEA that see remote working as a prerequisite rather than a perk, rising to 53% among Generation X workers. Yet the sample also indicated a concern that company leadership and management were not putting in the work to adapt in offering their employees greater choice and flexibility.
Since working remotely, more than three-quarters (76%) of the employees surveyed believe personal connections with colleagues have improved, 66% feel more empowered to speak up in video conference meetings and 69% say their stress levels have improved. Employee morale (30%) and productivity (34%) were also found to have increased.
Some 67% of respondents say recruitment of top-tier talent has been made easier, specifically for working parents (83%) and minority candidates (68%). And when it comes to generating new ideas, almost three-quarters (72%) agree that innovation is coming from more places within the organisation than before.
More than two-fifths of the decision-makers surveyed worry that their teams will not stay on task when working remotely, and just over a quarter (28%) feel their boardroom culture discourages remote working. Almost three-fifths (59%) feel more pressure to be online outside normal working hours. These factors indicate a need for a top-down shakeup of traditional management thinking and practices.
“The future of work has arrived in the form of a distributed workforce, bringing with it tangible business benefits, from productivity and employee morale, to greater collaboration and enhanced recruitment opportunities,” said Kristine Dahl Steidel, vice-president, EUC EMEA at VMware.
“And with this digital foundation, companies need to instill the right culture and leadership approach to create a new way of work. The digital workspace solutions that enable distributed workforces to be collaborative, engaged, visible and productive have already helped thousands of businesses and millions of employees.”
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Carl Benedikt Frey, director, Future of Work Programme, Oxford University, said of the research: “For organisations to truly embrace the ‘work from anywhere’ model, managers will have to move away from monitoring inputs to focusing on output, all from within an environment of mutual trust. Striking the right balance will be key to ensure employees are motivated while being in an environment where creativity can flourish.”
The survey also found that IT was no longer thought to be an inhibitor to distributed working practices, whereby employees can work from headquarters, a local office, home, on the move or a combination of locations, as standard. Only one-third of those surveyed believe IT is not equipped to manage a remote workforce.
“The unprecedented shift we’ve seen to a work-from-anywhere model this year undoubtedly offers many advantages to employers and employees alike,” said Véronique Karcenty, digital workspace director at Orange Group, France. “However, we should not underestimate the required change in people management strategies to keep employees engaged and productive.
“While executive leadership is important for setting the tone, it’s middle management that needs to constantly demonstrate trust, energise the team and build a sense of shared purpose.”