Sectoral divide highlighted on remote working

A British Chambers of Commerce survey shows two thirds will offer remote working in the next year, but a big divide between sectors and less interest in other forms of flexible working.

woman working at home

OVERHEAD Caucasian female working from home, having a video call with colleagues. Stay home, quarantine remote work

Nearly three quarters of businesses expect to have at least one employee working remotely over the coming year, with the average expectation among those firms being just over half of their employees doing remote working, according to a survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

The survey of 900 employers shows that over two thirds of businesses are offering remote working to employees. There were some major sectoral differences in the results – 80% of B2B services firms (such as finance and law) were able to offer working from home, while only 61% of manufacturers and 54% of B2C services companies (such as hospitality and retail) offered this. For manufacturers and B2C service firms 21% were not able to offer any of the flexible working options proposed, in comparison to only 7% of B2B service businesses.

Flexitime or staggered hours were offered by 38% of firms and part-time hours by 36%, while working from different locations was on offer from 32%. Only 15% offered all jobs flexible as standard and the proportions offering options such as job sharing (8%) and self-rostering of shifts (7%) were low.

When asked what they considered barriers to implementing remote working in their businesses 55% of firms said staff morale or mental health and well-being. In addition, 30% of respondents pointed to fairness to staff whose roles cannot be performed remotely. Firms also cited monitoring productivity (28%), poor internet connectivity (26%) and issues with IT (24%) as barriers to implementing remote working.

There were further sectoral divides in the responses. For instance, 53% of manufacturers cited requirement for physical presence to operate equipment, whist in B2C service firms the proportion was 35% and B2B service businesses only 16%. 39% of manufacturers also cited fairness to staff whose roles cannot be done remotely, compared to 29% for B2C service firms and 25% for B2B services.

British Chambers of Commerce Head of People Policy, Jane Gratton, said: These results show that nearly three quarters of firms will now continue to benefit from a remote working option during the coming year.  But it’s clear that some firms and individuals are facing barriers to remote working with many employers concerned about the impact on team morale and employee wellbeing.

Working from home is by no means the only way in which people can work flexibly. There are a great deal of flexible options available to all businesses including those which require onsite presence, for example, job sharing or self-rostering of shifts. Businesses need to attract the best people with the skills they need to be successful and flexible working enables employers to unlock new pools of talent. Offering flexible working opens the door for businesses to find the talent they need to fuel growth and rebuild our economy.”

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