Will Working From Home Stick?
Whilst we can now see the light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel with the roll out of three vaccines, it’s still going to be a difficult few months for us all. The issue of what’s going to happen to those staff who have been working from home since the early part of last year is something the bank is considering now. We don’t expect there to be a wholesale migration of staff back to offices, but we need to agree what the ‘new normal’ looks like. And staff working from home need to be part of that discussion. It would be unacceptable for the bank to simply publish its proposals without consulting staff first.
There are also wider societal implications as a result of the permanent shift in home working. What about those people, roughly 60% of the working population, who can’t work from home? The decline in commuting and business travel, which is set to continue even when we come out of this pandemic, is going to have a lasting knock-on effect on the jobs and businesses that support those who commute and work in offices. We are already seeing the devastating consequences of that with higher unemployment and business failures. In a recent paper, economists at Stanford and Chicago Universities and the Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico, estimated that cities like New York, San Francisco and Chicago would see a 5-10% reduction in taxable sales because of lower post-COVID spending on meals, entertainment and shopping in central business districts. Major cities and business hubs in this country can expect to see similar losses.
The hybrid model of working – with staff working from home for a few days a week and then going into local offices or hubs – is likely to be the ‘new normal’ in Lloyds. Last year we published the results of our first home working survey, the largest independent survey of staff attitudes to home working carried out in Lloyds Banking Group. We updated that survey before Christmas.
Some of the key results from our survey are as follows:
68% of respondents said the bank’s response to them working from home as either been excellent or very good. The bank has been quick to respond to the concerns of our members and like many employers the speed at which it’s been able to move 50,000 staff to home working has been truly impressive. The bank has supplied lots of equipment such as desks and chairs to thousands of staff to make home working more comfortable.
34% of members said that they would like to work from home 3 days+ a week. 29% said they would like to be fully remote. The results were 28% and 28% respectively when home workers were asked the same question in a survey called ‘Workforce Sentiment Survey’ carried out by the CBRE Group, Interestingly, only 5% of Lloyds staff said that they would like to fully go back to the office.
One of the interesting debates about home working has been around the issue of productivity. Are people more productive working from home? Studies from Japan suggest that the economy took a 7% hit to labour productivity as a result of home working. In this country, the Office for National Statistics says that almost 25% believe their productivity has been negatively affected by home working. Only 12% said it improved. In our latest survey, 51% of Lloyds staff said they felt more productive working from home compared to the office. In our last survey, that number was 40%. Only 15% said they felt less productive. Studies point to a daily savings in commuting of almost an hour per day and suggest that about one third of that time saved has been spent working. Our own research showed that 48% of members were spending more than 50 minutes a day commuting pre-Covid. Almost half of members said they were using that 50 minutes to spend more time with their families.
We also asked those line managers how productive members of their teams had been whilst working from home? 35% said more productive and 43% said the same. Only 22% said their staff were less productive. Interestingly, if the hybrid model of working is going to work in Lloyds post-Covid, then some line managers and senior executives are going to have to change their whole mindsets. Monitoring the number of hours staff spend in front of their computers is not the answer. It is going to be outcome-based measurements that are going to be key and that will have a knock-on effect on the management of performance. That’s another big issue, which we will cover in a separate Newsletter.
52% of staff said that they had plenty of information being fed through to them about what’s going on in Lloyds as a whole. 13% of respondents said that they felt isolated from what’s going on in Lloyds. That said, 84% did say that their line manager was keeping in regular contact with them.
We will publish more of the wellbeing results from our survey in one of our next Newsletters together with some of the comments we received from members. We will also be surveying members in other companies to get a wider spread of opinion. In the meantime, members with any questions on this survey or would like advice on working from home should contact the Union’s Advice Team on 01234 716005 (choose Option 1).