Almost a third of UK workers (32%) feel that having remote access to the workplace means they can’t switch off in their personal time, according to the latest CIPD/Halogen Employee Outlook report.
The survey of more than 2,000 UK employees found that workers are divided on whether remote access to the workplace is a positive or negative development. Two-fifths of respondents (40%) admit to actively checking their work mobile or emails at least five times a day outside of working hours. Nearly a fifth (18%) feel as though they are under surveillance with remote access to work, and 17% say it makes them feel anxious or even impacts their quality of sleep.
However, almost a third (30%) of employees say they feel empowered by having remote access to the workplace, showing a divide in opinion. Indeed, more than half of employees (53%) say it helps them to work flexibly and more than a third (37%) say it makes them more productive.
Claire McCartney, Associate Research Adviser at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, comments: “Flexible working has an important role to play in modern workplaces, and remote access to work can open up the jobs market to those who may not have been able to access it before. With the UK’s decision to leave the EU causing further uncertainty around access to skills, it’s more important than ever that employers make use of all the talent available to them by ensuring that their workplaces are inclusive, flexible and agile.
“However, a lack of clarity and guidance for employees around remote working can cultivate an environment where some employees feel unable to physically or mentally switch off. This can have adverse effects on employee wellbeing and their engagement with the organisation, as well as their productivity at work. Employers therefore need to have a clear approach to remote working, as well as create a wider enabling culture where employees feel trusted and empowered to take ownership of their work, but also able to speak out if they are struggling.”
The survey found that private sector employees are more likely to say that they can always switch off from work (47%), compared to those in the public (35%) and voluntary sectors (29%). Those in the public sector are also almost twice as likely to check their work mobile or emails at least five times a day outside of working hours (32%) than those in the voluntary (17%) and private sectors (23%).
Dominique Jones, Chief People Officer at Halogen Software said: “Technology makes it easier than ever to connect people and teams in an organisation, whether they’re in the physical workplace or not, so each individual understands how their work is contributing towards the goals that matter to them and the organisation.
“Organisations should focus on providing employees with the tools and resources to access what they need, when they need it, to improve their performance. Those that enable progress on goals, and feedback and development, will be better positioned to help people perform at their best and help move the business forward.”