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Employee Engagement

A workforce fatigued by restrictions and safety concerns is emerging with a more optimistic and hopeful outlook for the year ahead, according to Randstad’s latest survey of over 27,000 workers in 34 countries. Research revealed that there is a clear desire for employees to return to the workplace, however not without having the vaccine first.

Until a return to work is possible, feelings of isolation, the inability to strike a healthy work-life balance and the longing for personal connections are concerns cited by a majority of workers. Indeed, 52% of Brits mention missing in-person interaction with colleagues, and one in five stated that productivity has been affected negatively due to difficulties associated with working remotely.

These challenges have created a strong desire to return to the workplace by 78% of those polled, however not necessarily in the same way as before the pandemic. 56% of respondents now enjoy a hybrid working environment where they are in charge of choosing their workplace.

Previous research carried out by Randstad also revealed an appetite for workers to return to away-from-home working routines, with an unexpected response to views on commuting and physical meetings. Just one in six (17%) said that they now viewed commuting, business travel and physical meetings as “completely outdated”, while almost half (49%) said the pandemic had not changed their view of commuting or travelling to physical meetings. More than a third (34%) reported missing them.

For organisations to return to a pre-pandemic state, most survey respondents believe their work environments need to also be much safer than they are now, and an increase in vaccination rollout is seen by many as essential.

72% of UK workers say they won’t feel safe in the workplace until others around them are vaccinated (19% higher than the global average), and 63% prefer to work from home until the vaccine is widely distributed.

The global survey also revealed that over a quarter (28%) of workers are required by their employer to be vaccinated. However, an overwhelming majority (87%) of respondents say they would be willing to get vaccinated if required for their job, and two thirds (67%) believe they will have more job opportunities once vaccinated.

Victoria Short, CEO of Randstad UK said: “It’s encouraging to hear that so many are rooting to physically get back to the workplace. It doesn’t come as a surprise however that the majority won’t feel comfortable in a communal environment until they have been vaccinated.

In order to best manage expectations, employers have a key role to play in ensuring robust safety protocols are in place prior to reopening the doors to the wider, non-essential workforce.

While remote working has its benefits, teams are missing out on extra shared learnings, mentoring, spontaneous meetings and ideation sessions which are typically trickier to do virtually. With three in five UK adults now vaccinated and with restrictions lifting, it’s the perfect time to navigate safely back to the workplace, and take advantage of the increasing job opportunities we are seeing as the demand for talent rises.

While the majority believe more opportunities will arise once the population has received a vaccine, 25% of employees fear unemployment because they are on temporary contracts, according to the latest research.

With the furlough scheme set to end in September, 29% fear unemployment once government aid is no longer in place to protect jobs.

In terms of actual job losses, 24% of those surveyed earlier this year have changed jobs because the industry was forced to downsize or close.

Victoria Short said: “UK employers have been fortunate enough to take advantage of the furlough scheme, protecting millions of jobs across the country. Growing anxiety among workers can certainly be justified, as the scheme which supports over four million individuals is set to end on September 30th, as it currently stands. We’ve noticed some temporary workers fearing loss of income, however our temp worker numbers are now above pre-covid levels, indicating that there are still plenty of opportunities for those who prefer to, or are required to, remain on flexible contracts.”

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