The number of job postings for remote roles nearly tripled in the first eight months after the start of the first lockdown, research has shown, as experts call for employers to offer a wider range of flexible options.
Analysis of available job adverts, conducted by Robert Half, found that the number of postings for roles based remotely increased 190 per cent between March and November last year when compared to the eight months prior to lockdown (June 2019 to February 2020).
Around 40 per cent of these remote work opportunities were in the marketing and IT sectors, which made up two-fifths of all the postings analysed.
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As part of the research, Robert Half also polled 1,500 business executives globally, and found 89 per cent expected ‘hybrid working’ – a mix of both remote and office-based work – to become a permanent feature after the pandemic.
The study also surveyed a number of employees and found a similar preference for greater remote working. Nearly two-fifths (39 per cent) said they were planning to relocate and continue working remotely; almost half (49 per cent) wanted to move to a four-day week; and 68 per cent wished to continue working from home one to three days a week, according to the Demand for Skilled Talent report.
Claire Lane, national employer manager at Remploy, said the move towards remote and hybrid working was good news for typically under-represented groups, such as those with disabilities or caring responsibilities, who value flexibility and may face barriers travelling to work each day.
“For employers, remote working can also offer the chance to access candidates from a more geographically diverse talent pool,” she added.
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However, Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, said that while the move to hybrid working was here to say, many workers were still unable to do their jobs from home. Flexible working needed to be made available to everyone, he explained, so it is important for employers to broaden the debate beyond home and hybrid working.
"Employers should ensure they're supporting the uptake of a wide range of flexible working arrangements for those who can’t work from home including flexi-time, compressed hours, term-time working and job sharing,” he said, adding that the right to request flexible working should be made a day-one right.
The research coincides with the release of a YouGov poll, commissioned by Microsoft, that revealed 87 per cent of employees reported their businesses had already adapted to hybrid working.
The Microsoft report found several benefits to workers – 55 per cent of the 4,000 employees polled said they now use their lunch break to focus on their personal life, while 56 per cent reported being happier working from home. However, almost one in three (30 per cent) reported an increase in their working hours while working from home, and 53 per cent feel they have to be available at all times.
Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind, welcomed the increase in flexibility over where employees work, but said employers needed to be aware of how this could impact their mental health.
“While some staff now working from home may be relieved to have ditched their commute, others might be struggling with issues like loneliness, isolation, poor work/life balance and longer working hours,” she said.
Mamo added that it could be difficult to switch off from work when someone’s office is also their kitchen, living room or their bedroom, and employees needed to be able to clearly divide work and leisure time.
“Managing colleagues remotely can mean it’s harder to identify when a co-worker might be struggling, and any instances of presenteeism – staff working when they should be taking time off sick to help them recover,” said Mamo, who suggested employers implement wellness action plans and keep in regular touch with their remote workforce.
Charles Urquhart, a partner at Clyde & Co, added that implementing a proper home working policy could help employees find the right balance. He said: "The difficulty for employers who embrace agile working across part or all of the working week will be to ensure that employees are properly supervised and supported whilst working remotely.
“[This support] includes updating home working policies, ensuring health and safety is being properly considered and communicating clearly with employees about the need to put in place boundaries between work and home life.”