Leading employers say trust-based management helps boost Covid productivity

A Working Families survey of leading employers shows several have seen productivity rise, which they put down in part to a culture of trust over presenteeism and familiarity with agile working.

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Emphasis on trust and outputs rather than presenteeism and existing familiarity with remote and agile working are among the factors that have ensured leading employers have managed to maintain or improve productivity since the Covid-19 outbreak, according to a new study.

The survey of employers by the charity Working Families marks the start of National Work Life Week and reflects the views of 26 employers which Working Families has identified as being leaders in good practice.

It found that 25 out of the 26 felt productivity had been the same or better than usual during lockdown. The factors they cited included emphasis on trust and outputs over presenteeism, the fact they were used to remote working, reduced commute times, working hours that suited employees and efficient technology.

The survey also found that flexible working had increased as a result of Covid-19 and would be maintained for many in the long term. Before Covid-19, just under half of respondents said that over half of their staff flexed their hours, and a quarter said more than half of their staff worked at least partly remotely. During COVID-19, 85% of respondents said at least half of their staff had flexed their hours and 84% said at least half of their staff had worked exclusively remotely during lockdown. Two thirds plan to continue to allow the majority of staff to continue flexing their hours after Covid.

The survey also asked employers about the challenges they faced during lockdown. They included issues relating to employee morale, engagement, communication, burnout and mental wellbeing. When it came to parents, many had improved the support they offered: 65% of employers said that their support for parents and carers was good or very good before lockdown which rose to 100% after lockdown. All employers surveyed had offered employees with children the opportunity to work from home and flex their hours. In addition, many employers had offered wellbeing support, paid leave, acceptance of children appearing on video calls and changed deadlines and objectives to reflect caring responsibilities.

Jane van Zyl, Chief Executive of Working Families, said: “Lockdown was a challenging time for workng parents and carers. But a silver lining to come out of it is that employers have realised that flexibility is possible in many more jobs than they had ever considered before. It’s clear from this survey that our employer members have found ways to improve their flexible working practices and offer much-needed support to parents and carers—all while improving performance overall. The fact that so many of our members are planning to retain this new level of flexibility into the future is a testament to how well it’s worked. I encourage other employers to follow their example and harness the gains in productivity, engagement, and diversity that flexible working offers.”

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