As lockdown restrictions are tentatively lifted in the UK, employers of all sizes are looking ahead to what a return to regular workplaces will look like – in terms of practicalities, processes and, most important of all, people. There is already no doubt that the measures put in place in the immediate response to the pandemic – widespread homeworking, the option to furlough staff to protect jobs, and a switch to remote hiring and onboarding – will have far reaching effects, even as offices reopen and companies strive to make sense of how their operations will run as the next phase of the response to the pandemic begins.

To find out how UK workers are really feeling as a return to regular workplaces looms, we conducted a survey* across our candidates, covering those currently in work, on furlough and unemployed. Some clear insights emerged from what they told us, covering everything from what candidates will be looking for when applying for new roles to how staff feel their employers dealt with the lockdown period.

Here are five key takeaways.

1. The majority of workers still feel proud to work for their company…
Some 70% of those we spoke who are currently working said they were proud to work for, and would recommend, their current employer. Given that organisations of all sizes have had to make difficult decisions, under great duress and with little time to make detailed plans, it is notable that 65% also said that their companies dealt well with minimising stress for employees, with 70% saying they felt supported as lockdown conditions came in. 

2. However, almost half are unlikely to stay beyond 12 months
Although, many were satisfied with their employer’s response to the pandemic, this is not necessarily translating into long-term loyalty, with only 44% stating they were likely to stay at their company beyond 12 months. There could be myriad reasons for this, both personally and professionally. For some, the lockdown could well have offered a period of reflection on where they want their careers to go and what really matters to them. Others may have more practical concerns, as reflected in the following insight…

3. Job location is now more important than salary
Of those we spoke to who were currently unemployed, location was ranked as the number one factor affecting their decision to accept a role, even ahead of salary. This perhaps indicates that although a return to work is underway, many may not be feeling comfortable in commuting in the way they used to and will be looking for employment closer to home to minimise social contact with others. Meanwhile, job stability has risen in the ranks to third, perhaps indicating that candidates are already looking ahead to potential economic turbulence in the coming months and years, and therefore will prioritise job security more than they did previously. 

4. The workforce is split on how to blend office/home working
A switch to widespread homeworking already looking like of the biggest legacies of the pandemic. Although homeworking as part of increased flexibility was something that was already on the increase in recent years, a sudden need for operations to go remote en masse has clearly resulted in a building of trust between both sides. When asked which working model would most appeal, many of our respondents said they would favour a blend of home working and office work, with some citing a reduction in commute times as a factor. There were also some extremes in responses, with some wanting to work from home full time and others expecting to be permanently based in an office again. 

5. Most furloughed staff plan on changing roles
Although clearly the economic helping hand that employers of all sizes desperately needed, the furlough scheme has been one of the most difficult aspects of the pandemic for many to manage, and this was reflected in our data. Although 65% of those we surveyed who had been furloughed said their employed communicated the decision effectively to them, only 55% believe they have been kept engaged since being placed on the scheme, underlining a need for better communication. Perhaps as a result of this, 70% of furloughed staff are now considering a change in role. 

At Michael Page we believe that now, more than ever, it is important to be making business decisions based on the very latest insights and data on what’s going on in the market. With this in mind, why not fill out your details below to get a FREE market insights report from Page Insights, bespoke to your region, sector and discipline.

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