More than half (51%) of UK workers who currently have the choice to mix remote and office working would consider leaving their company if this hybrid option was removed, according to new research by Microsoft in conjunction with YouGov, with fieldwork undertaken between October 7 and 15, 2021.
For many employees, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed hybrid working from “nice to have” to “must-have”. More than half (59%) of HR decision makers (HRDMs) surveyed agree hybrid working has had a positive effect on the mental wellbeing of their workforce.
The findings come in the wake of recent data from the Office for National Statistics that revealed resignations and job-to-job moves in the UK are at their highest level in two decades. The result is what experts are calling “the great resignation”, with many workers changing roles and companies as they re-evaluate their views on life, work and how to balance them.
However, while many UK workers have sought new roles that offer greater flexibility, the reality of onboarding at a new business during the pandemic has not been without its challenges. More than a third (36%) of UK workers who started a new job since the start of the pandemic experienced their entire onboarding process without ever setting foot in the workplace.
These workers have struggled with forming working relationships (42%), not having a manager or team “in the room” to ask for information or guidance (33%), learning to use new software and applications (24%), earning the confidence of colleagues (23%), and soaking up company culture (21%).
The challenges of remote onboarding since the start of the pandemic are also recognised by those responsible for managing the process. More than a third (36%) of HRDMs felt remote onboarding makes it hard to provide effective, role-specific training for new starters; 35% voiced concerns about ensuring employees have easy access to the information they need to hit the ground running; and 28% are worried about upholding their organisation’s culture and reputation.
Despite the potential hiccups of a remote onboarding process, employees and HRDMs believe the long-term benefits of hybrid working outweigh these initial woes. The report found that the most pressing concerns identified by HRDMs in not having a hybrid working model were an inability to retain new talent (38%), a negative impact on productivity (25%), a negative impact on wellbeing (24%), employee burnout (23%) and keeping pace with competitors (23%).
The good news for companies and their employees is that more than a third (37%) of the HRDMs surveyed who have onboarded new staff remotely since the start of the pandemic say that the process, when challenging, is resolvable with the right technology solutions.
Nick Hedderman, Director of Modern Work Business Group at Microsoft UK, said: “The pandemic has proven that organisations can trust their people to be productive wherever they are. They now have an opportunity to reshape work around individual roles, preferences and even personal lives. This is achievable through tech-enabled hybrid working models, which supports the creation of a rich digital culture to benefit everyone, helping to attract and retain top talent.
“HR professionals, leadership teams and IT can work together using digital tools such as Microsoft Viva to create an employee experience platform to serve their organisational needs, such as making the onboarding process rewarding and inclusive for new staff. In doing so, there is a much higher chance of those new hires becoming long-term employees.”
Read Microsoft’s research
The research was based on online surveys of 2,046 employees and 504 HRDMs in the UK