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CEO Viewpoint: Employers must embrace 'demand for different' or face losing staff

By Neville Koopowitz, CEO, Vitality

Published: 13/07/2021
Organisations need to bridge the significant gap that exists between homeworkers’ hopes and employer expectations, writes Vitality CEO Neville Koopowitz.

No individual, business or community has been unaffected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet such life-changing events have inadvertently changed the way some businesses work for the better. And the most forward-thinking employers will need to embrace this ‘demand for different’ and be open-minded to the opportunities it can bring.

Recent research conducted by the RSA and Vitality revealed that Britain’s remote workers want much more flexibility over where they work going forward1. More than eight in 10 would prefer to work at home for either part or all of the week, just under half want hybrid (48%) compared to only 16% who said they want to return to working in a physical location all of the time.

The direction of travel does seem to suggest that employers are open to increasing access to hybrid or home working options, however a survey by the Chartered Institute of Professional Development found that only 63% of employers intend to introduce or expand remote working2. The findings of the RSA report, meanwhile, found a significant gap between homeworkers’ hopes and their expectations with regard to their employers’ plans3.

Almost one in three (29%) expect to have to work mainly at a physical location in the future, despite this only being the first choice for 16% of employees. This 13-percent point gap equates to around 1.9m employees in the UK4.

- Neville Koopowitz, CEO, Vitality

Shifting attitudes

This, combined with the shifting values of staff as a result of the pandemic, points towards a workforce that increasingly looks for a workplace that supports their wellbeing, flexibility, work-life balance, mental health and ability to lead a healthy lifestyle.

The question for employers, as we enter another ‘new normal’ following the end of the latest iteration of lockdown restrictions, is how to meet the need of staff in a way that creates shared value for all.

When initiating post-lockdown plans, managers and leaders should explore the potential for a ‘best of both’ model: a ‘Healthy Hybrid’ that can deliver inclusive productivity gains for their business alongside a healthier, happier workforce.

Firstly, and most importantly, this means aiming for productivity that is consistent with healthy behaviour and long-lasting wellbeing. And, secondly, it requires understanding of the productivity potential of different work settings and aligning schedules and workflows in a way that works for all involved.

Shared value

Data from Britain’s Healthiest Workplace, the UK’s largest workplace wellbeing survey last published by Vitality in 2019, shows that the UK economy loses almost £92bn a year as a result of ill-health related absence and presenteeism in the workplace, with employers losing on average 38 days per employee5.

At Vitality, we start from the premise that a truly ‘Healthy Hybrid’ approach to working is possible. While this will inevitably come with challenges – such as in ensuring workers are treated fairly and equally regardless of their location – it has the potential to unlock inclusive productivity gains for organisations, while keeping staff happy and healthy in ways that retain their loyalty as a result.

Read the Healthy Hybrid report
Drawing upon evidence from our recent survey, a series of interviews with experts and senior leaders, alongside RSA analysis of the pandemic’s impact upon work, we set out 10 practical steps employers can take to meet this objective in a way that generates true shared value within businesses.

Find out how VitalityHealth can help boost the health, wellbeing and productivity of remote working employees.

1. Fieldwork conducted 14-23 April 2021. Homeworker defined as those who have worked at home in Q1 of 2021 i.e. during the ‘third’ and most recent lockdown, excluding those who usually worked at home before the pandemic
2. CIPD, 2021. 
3. Healthy Hybrid: A Blueprint for Business. The RSA and Vitality.
4. Figure based on RSA analysis, calculating 13% of the adult population currently working exclusively from home (1.89m), which latest ONS analysis (30 April 2021) suggests currently equates to 27% of the adult population (14.56m).
5. Vitality (2019) Britain’s £92 billion productivity loss: nation’s ‘first productive day’ is now 21st February. Available at: media/38-working-days-lost-due-to-presenteeism

Where to next?

  • Healthy Hybrid: Four lessons from lockdown

    In light of a recent report examining the workplace wellbeing challenges employers face post-lockdown, Pippa Andrews, Director of Corporate Business for Vitality, explores the areas that organisations most need to be aware of.

  • Ways to implement Healthy Hybrid into work

    Our report in partnership with the RSA titled ‘Healthy Hybrid: A Blueprint for Business’ set out 10 recommendations to help employers deliver inclusive productivity gains for their business alongside a healthier, happier workforce.

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