‘Trust is central to return to work’

A new report from Manpower highlights the importance of employees trusting their employer with regard to health and safety issues if they want them to return to the workplace.

A woman sits at her desk with hand sanitiser and face mask in the foreground


Trust is at the centre of the return to the office debate, according to a new survey by Manpower which finds a third of employees don’t trust their employer to make the right decision about work and health measures.

The report, The future for workers by workers, says companies need to build trust, listen to people and respond to their needs and help workers prioritise and recharge. It states: “The initial adrenalin of workers needs to shift to resilience for the long term and employers must lead this charge. When stress is on the rise and the number one concern on the minds of many workers is losing their jobs, strong remote leadership, transparent frequent communication, and a culture that is fit for the hybrid work /home workplace and accessible wellbeing support is key.”

The report also shows that women are likely to be more economically impacted by Covid, for instance, they are more likely to be furloughed (23% vs 20%) and more represented in industries most affected by the pandemic. They are also more nervous about the health risks of going back to the workplace, but more appreciative of the office as a means of separating work from home.

The report recommends that managers adapt to new ways of working and seek to investigate how these could be managed best to help people be more productive. It underlines the importance of managers understanding individuals’ needs to avoid assumptions and prevent unconscious biases in playing out.

It calls for continuous and remote learning as the skills needed for the workplace evolve and says flexible working is not just about remote working. For roles that need to be done in the workplace it encourages employers to offer staggered start and finish times and more flexible scheduling and to understand the priorities people have to balance in order to get their work done. It also calls for emotional wellbeing to be given the same importance as physical and organisational measures like temperature taking and social distancing to ensure people are confident, healthy and productive.

Manpower has also released a global survey of over 38,000 employers in 43 countries conducted in July 2020 which shows over half (59%) of employers globally are planning to offer flexible work options for the long-term. It says employers in Greece, Singapore, Belgium, the Netherlands and Australia are leading the way in offering hybrid styles of remote working some of the time, while China, the US, Poland, Hong Kong and India are offering the least flexibility to their workforces.

The studies come as the debate about the return to the office continues. Different employers are tackling the issue in different ways.

The Law Society Gazette says it is estimated that just 10% of City solicitors are working on site, although this is set to rise, depending on evolving Covid figures. Eversheds Sutherland will enter “phase one” of its reopening plan this month, in which a quarter of its staff will return to its 10 UK offices. Meanwhile, Allen & Overy will open offices for employees to return on a voluntary basis. However, people will have access only on alternate weeks, to ensure social distancing. At Freshfields, one cohort of staff will move to its London office this month. A second group is due to move to the office in December, though everyone still has the option to work from home. Other firms have kept summer restrictions in place. Slaughter and May, which partially opened in July, said it is keeping its options under review, while Norton Rose Fulbright said it does not expect to see most staff working from the office in the near future in areas reliant on public transport.

A report says half of JP Morgan’s bankers, traders and analysts are to return to the firm’s Canary Wharf London headquarters on a “week on, week off” basis, up from 25% previously.  Bloomberg staff are being offered as much as $75 (£55) a day to cover the cost of returning to their office. The offer is reported to have been made to the company’s 20,000 global staff as part of an attempt to address health and safety fears associated with working in offices. Private equity groups Blackstone and Advent International are providing staff with coronavirus tests and asking employees not to use public transport as they prepare to return to their desks after months of remote working.

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