Remote working is changing how bosses treat their staff - for the better

More than half of UK businesses have funneled effort into improving work culture since March 2020, according to new research by Slack.

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Organizations that offer flexible working arrangements and prioritize wellbeing are more attractive to employees

Image: Ridofranz, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Remote working during the pandemic has led to a greater focus on employee wellbeing among UK businesses, according to new research from Slack.

A survey of more than 1,000 UK workers found more than half (56%) felt that their employer had made improvements to work culture since the start of the pandemic by focusing on employee wellbeing or offering more flexibility.

Companies that offer such initiatives are also more alluring to employees, Slack found: more than a third (36%) of UK workers said organizations that offered flexible working arrangements were the most attractive places to work, while a quarter (25%) of UK knowledge workers said they were more attracted to companies that actively fought burnout by being proactive about mental health and wellbeing.

Burnout was found to be a worryingly common experience among UK employees during the pandemic, with three in five (56%) workers saying they had experienced emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by workplace stress since the first lockdown in March 2020.

This figure rose to 66% amongst workers who had joined their current role less than a year ago. One factor that contributed to feelings of burnout included workers not feeling connected to – or supported by – their teams. Thirty-one percent of respondents felt this contributed to feelings of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion.

Rob Archer, chartered psychologist and founder of The Career Psychologist, said overall rates of anxiety and depression had risen sharply in the UK since March 2020, caused by feelings of isolation due to lockdown measures, health and financial worries, as well as the effects of long-term remote working.

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"Many of those working from home are putting in longer hours, and spending more time in back-to-back video calls every day," said Archer. "This, combined with a lack of variety, has meant that we have seen higher levels of burnout emerging."

A number of companies plan to extend flexible-working policies beyond the pandemic, including a number of major tech and banking firms in the UK and US. That said, not all companies see the future of work as remote.

Stuart Templeton, head of Slack in the UK, said organizations would need to take the lessons learned from working from home during the pandemic to ensure workplaces remained champions of employee wellbeing, as well as maintain productivity within new, 'hybrid' workplaces.

"It's very positive that UK employees are already seeing an improvement in their work culture and what their employers are offering – now is the time for businesses to continue on this trajectory. At the end of the day, an employee who is cared for and supported will be inspired to do their best work," said Templeton.

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Making a long-term success of hybrid working also means a strong focus on overall employee experience, said Templeton – particularly as employees are expected to spend less time in the office.

"[Employers] need to take time to connect with people and be more aware of everyone's physical and mental health," said Templeton. "This means creating a culture that champions employee wellbeing and provides workers with the right tools to be productive, both at home and in the new-look office environment."

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