Two-thirds of HR practitioners expect remote working to increase their workload, poll finds

Experts advise that people professionals cannot be ‘all things to all people’ and should be mindful of their own wellbeing

Nearly two-thirds of HR professionals expect an increase in their workloads as a result of ongoing home working post pandemic, a survey has found.

The poll of 200 senior HR professionals, conducted by Howden Employee Benefits and Wellbeing, found that 64 per cent are expecting more pressures as a direct result of the move to home working, including almost a fifth (18 per cent) who expect a significant increase.

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At the same time, the vast majority of people professionals said their organisations were planning to offer some or all of their employees remote working going forward.

Nearly two in five (39 per cent) said their organisations planned to offer partial home working to all workers, while almost half (46 per cent) said they would offer home working to some employees. Another 3 per cent said their firm would move to an entirely home-based working model once pandemic restrictions were removed.

Commenting on the results, Gemma Bullivant, an HR coach and consultant, said the management changes needed to move to remote working would, at least temporarily, increase the workload for HR teams.

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“Where pain will be felt most acutely is in organisations that don’t take the strategic decisions early so that infrastructure can be put in place,” she added, suggesting that HR practitioners “might need to put pressure on other senior leaders” to choose the approach that ensures workload is contained and invested in the right areas.

Kunjan Zaveri, HR manager at TCR2, pointed out that home working created other challenges for people professionals. “Some people are in need of mentorship and constant guidance on soft skills, and it is difficult to monitor their performance, and others who live alone are struggling mentally which creates a challenge,” he said. 

However, Gemma Dale, lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University, questioned why HR professionals assumed remote working would increase their workload. “While working in a hybrid or remote way does change the way we do things, I see no reason why this should mean workload will increase in the longer-term and stay increased,” she said.

Adopting remote working will require human resources to adapt, said Dale, but increases in workload “could indicate we have something wrong in the way we approach remote working”.

Rachel Suff, senior policy adviser at the CIPD, also called on employers to be careful of staff workloads. “CIPD research shows workload is the biggest cause of stress at work, so it’s vital that employers are mindful of their duty of care for their employees’ health, safety and wellbeing.

“This includes managing the risks to their mental health by, for example, carrying out a stress risk assessment,” said Suff.

Employers should also encourage staff to seek help if their workloads increased, said Ngozi Weller, director at Aurora Wellness. “The age of the ‘HR superhero’ has to stop, because HR cannot be all things to all people, take on whatever tasks are thrown at it and work increasingly long hours,” she said.

HR teams have the right to a reasonable work-life balance and should get help from external contractors if they need it, Weller added.

Sandra McLellan, director and founder of HR Inspire, also suggested outsourcing if the pressure on the team begins to increase. HR teams should “review short-term goals regularly and adjust as needed”.

“If some members can’t carry out all their usual work, consider other skills they can lend to others to meet team goals.”