Since the outbreak of Covid-19, more than one in three businesses surveyed (34 per cent) have changed their views on working from home, to offer it permanently to some extent outside of lockdowns. However, 73 per cent of these organisations report some employees feel isolated at home and prefer the team environment of the office. This increases to 80 per cent within smaller businesses of fewer than 50 employees.
These organisations also said flexible working has reduced their teams’ ability to collaborate (20 per cent) and has had a negative impact on office culture (five per cent).
For other businesses, however, the increased flexibility has presented a completely different problem with almost one in four employers surveyed (22 per cent) saying that working from home has been too successful and they’ve had to encourage people back into the office. Almost 60 per cent of businesses that now offer flexible working said it’s been a completely positive move.
A material shift in the way people work
These findings come from the Workplace Wellness Report 2021, a study into workplace wellbeing. Undertaken every two years by Southern Cross Health Insurance and BusinessNZ, the report is now in its fifth edition. The study canvassed 116 private and public sector businesses of all sizes, representing more than 95,000 employees, or 4.8 per cent of New Zealand’s workforce.
Southern Cross Health Insurance CEO Nick Astwick said the pandemic has resulted in a material shift in the way people work, communicate, and connect, and New Zealand businesses have been at the forefront of embracing this change. “Businesses have had it pretty tough but they moved quickly to adapt and reimagine how to operate in this new Covid-19 world so their organisations and people can flourish.
“The challenges of remote working outlined in the report are likely to have intensified during the latest lockdown, but businesses have continued to step up to support the wellbeing of workers as the effects of the pandemic continue,” added Astwick. “Navigating new ways of working in the Covid-19 era is a focus for businesses right now. They’re adapting health and safety policies and making sure they’re fit-for-purpose for a workforce that no longer works full-time in an office environment.”
Meanwhile, more than one third of the UK’s small-to-medium enterprises have increased their support for mental wellbeing since the start of the pandemic, according to a survey by GlobalData.