We recently asked our community two questions via a quick poll on our website: When do you think employees will return to the office? Do you think we will ever return to the office full time? We are pleased to report that 1,573 respondents took the time to give us their opinion, thank you for your contribution! Here are the results: We must caveat the above results by stating that we ran this poll the back end of last year, before the second strain and third lockdown came upon us. Our circumstances are changing rapidly, however when we originally asked this question, most people thought that we would return to the office sometime in Q2 (45%). Regardless of when we will return to an office environment, most respondents believe that flexible working is here to stay, with 'a large percentage continuing to work from home due to a reduction in office space to save costs'. Another respondent echoes the above by commenting: Now that people have proven that they can work just as effectively and collaboratively while being remote, I think most people and businesses will adopt far more flexible work patterns where appropriate. This means that cost savings can be realised through cutting down on office space, while also giving employees a better work life balance. " You can read a related article we published called, ‘Rethinking workspaces – how will your company adapt to the new normal?’.However there were challenging arguments to the above train of thought, with one participant stating, 'Though it was a good experience to do smart working, for creation and idea development, working together is a more conducive environment'. In addition, some respondents flagged that the road to recovery will not be so clear cut, commenting, 'Due to the disruption, recovery is likely to be asymmetric and non-linear across industries and geographies', while another drew attention to some of the challenges, saying 'most organisations haven't yet implemented the correct H&S approach in terms of safely bringing people back to the office'. The dominant answer to this question, at 43%, was ‘No, we won’t return full time’. The main reasons participants voted this was the substantial savings that businesses have made when they cut the office rents and related facilities from their overheads, as well as the benefits of not having to face the daily commute.However, with 38% of respondents voting for ‘Yes, we will return full time’, and a substantial number of people saying they are not sure, there isn’t a clear cut winning answer to this question. Interestingly, there were far more arguments in favour of the return to the office environment in the qualitative data, for example, one comment said, 'It's more efficient to work at the office, it allows for a better balanced work life, and people are naturally attracted to working with people'. Other comments echoed this sentiment for instance, ‘People miss the social aspect of the office environment, they miss their colleagues’, ‘An office environment is more conducive for collaboration and innovation’, ‘collective work is more focused and purposeful. This makes gathering in one space natural’, and ‘there are mental health implications from working full time in isolation’. One participant drew attention to the loss of office culture that we all experience when we work remotely, and pointed out that New and/or young employees need the office environment in order to network and learn a company’s culture and the way things are done. " While we all acknowledge that we are overly dependent on virtual meetings at the moment, one commented on the drawbacks of virtual meetings, saying, ‘Body language and personal interaction are a core component of work and interpersonal relationships, which you cannot get remotely'. Similar to the sentiments in the first question, many participants believe that the answer isn’t ‘a’ or ‘b’, the answer is one of flexibility and a ‘blended’ approach. (You can read a blog we published pre-Covid on this topic called, ‘Is flexible working a win win?’, which examines the practical challenges of ongoing flexible working, and some legal obligations for employers).It’s clear that people are keen to get back to normal at least some of the time - the office is normal, with one professional citing all the ‘normal’ things we are missing, such as ‘Connecting with people. Sharing a conversation without having to dial in. Going for a coffee break. Travelling. Having a proper desk. Sharing a smile!’.
What is happening in the UK’s HR market? The HR industry has undergone significant change in recent years, moving away from its previous image of being an administrative role to its current reputation as a key function in any high-performing organisation. With alternative workforces, disruptive digital business models and a focus on more meaningful work all taking hold, the HR profession is responding in turn, creating new opportunities for professionals across the UK. Here’s where the market is at currently: Brexit creates ongoing uncertainty In addition to the usual seasonal trends we see within HR – such as a downturn in the market during holiday periods – Brexit is creating significant amounts of uncertainty. Clients and candidates alike in the human resource development space are telling us that Brexit is contributing to changes in activity, particularly within manufacturing and other industries that operate on a large scale. These companies are on limited production and many are stocking up on materials to bulk-store in warehouses ahead of any Brexit decision. This caution and preparation is being felt throughout the country, with UK factory output accelerating in September as firms rushed to buy goods and materials to avoid border delays. SMEs and large organisations are holding their supplies in warehouses, with some – such asJaguar Land Rover – building brand new distribution centres in a bid to counteract Brexit pressures. In addition, the permanent side of the HR market is being increasingly reserved as the Brexit outcome remains unclear. There is little movement from either candidates or clients, with caution encouraging workers to stay put in their jobs and employers to avoid adding too many new permanent roles. However, we expect that as soon as there is a clear outcome, activity will return to pre-Brexit levels and it will be full steam ahead in the fixed-term contract and permanent HR space. Companies are focusing on rewardClients are no longer looking just at salaries, with their focus shifting towards bonuses, benefits, pensions and flexibility. While our 2019 Market Insight report shows that 72% of respondents received a pay increase at their most recent pay review, we know that pay rises have slowed across the board. Because of this – and indeed in a bid to not just attract top talent, but retain them - employers are being creative with benefits. Our respondents rate holiday leave, pension and bonus schemes and flexible working as among the most important benefits, and this is certainly being reflected by our clients. Salaries have stabilised this year, rebounding after a period of low rates. In order to make these packages more appealing to both existing employees and new candidates, organisations are investing much more into pension packages, annual leave and provisions around home working. Competition for top talent is fierce, and with candidates reluctant to move on from roles until a Brexit outcome is determined, HR professionals are finding it harder than ever to lure people away from their current jobs and into their business. Because of this, we’re seeing huge demand for reward professionals within HR. We’re moving from Human Resource Managers to Human Resource Business PartnersOutside of small SME clients, we’re seeing a decline in demand for human resource management (HRM) professionals. Medium and large organisations are increasingly looking to recruit human resource business partners who can provide significant strategic and operational benefits to organisations. While HRMs and HRBPs perform similar roles of connecting the HR department to management, HRBPs are more commercially aware and tend to work more closely with organisational leaders to develop and direct HR agendas. Organisations want business partners who can contribute to strategic meetings, are commercially savvy and understand how HR activity can impact and contribute to the bottom line. This doesn’t mean traditional HRMs are out of work, however – instead, they’re staying put in their existing roles while HRBPs are moving into new roles. Salaries remain high in LondonSenior HR posts continue to generate higher salaries in London compared to the rest of the country, but many HR shared services are moving to more regional locations. For example, HSBC has transitioned from its Canary Wharf base to Birmingham. This move from London to the regions is reflected in the wider UK business market as real estate costs in London have soared. Across the board, salaries have remained stable in 2019 as the bigger focus has been on the reward and benefits package companies can offer. Company and personal performance bonuses, however, have been much more competitive. Fixed term contracts and permanent roles will gain steam in the new yearWhere IR35 is applicable we will likely see an increase in fixed term contracts and permanent roles in the new year, and we can expect to see Brexit playing a part in how this pans out. Larger complex organisations such as financial services and utilities firms still have contractors in place, but conversations with Heads of Resourcing suggest they will move towards more permanent roles and fixed term contracts rather than extending day rates as IR35 takes hold. Interested in your next HR role? We can helpAt Marks Sattin, we have a deep knowledge of the senior HR market and work with high calibre organisations and professionals across the UK. Take a look at our current HR jobs here or get in touch to see how we can help you.
Why should we bring wellbeing into the workplace? Wellbeing is in the workplace whether we like it or not, and the healthier your workforce the better your business will perform. Businesses in the FTSE 100 who have a robust wellbeing strategy are outperforming all of the others and evidence suggests that for every £1 invested in employee wellbeing your business will generate another £3. It’s hard to understand in 2019 how some boardrooms are still seeing employee wellbeing and mental health as a ‘fluffy subject’ and not seeing the direct links between employee energy and their business results. How do you open a conversation about mental health in the workplace? The stigma of mental health is the huge ‘wall of silence’ that exists around this subject. We choose not to speak about this subject because we fear saying something wrong and making someone feel embarrassed or awkward so we choose to say nothing. We don’t know how to open up the wellbeing conversation which makes us even less likely to start what could be a lifesaving conversation. The answer is in training your people on the right language to use in such circumstances. We should never say to somebody ‘I am very worried about your mental health’. They would go into a ‘shut down’ mode and find it far too invasive. If you say you have noticed a change in their energy levels (as part of a much wider conversation) they are far more likely to tell you what is going on in their life and the impact it is having on their wellbeing. As a counsellor I am trained to ‘notice, not interpret’ as it is far less judgemental and I share this with my clients. What can we do to encourage employees to proactively enhance their own wellbeing? Employees take on average six to eight years after the initial symptoms of poor mental health to seek professional advice. This is largely because they are not aware of the early indicators combined with the powerful stigma that prevents them from being honest and open about their mental wellbeing. To encourage employees to be proactive we need to invest time and resource into the workplace to help them understand their mental wellbeing better. We need to provide them with simple tools to measure their energy levels and create cultures where people want to flourish and live a healthier way of life. What are the business risks if we fail to address these issues? Teams that operate with high energy are successful, but teams that are not healthy and energised will never get anywhere near optimising performance. It feels like I am stating the obvious but the risks are high levels of absenteeism, poor employee engagement, high staff churn, inefficiency and reduced productivity. If your culture is not focussed on employee wellbeing, you will lose more staff to long term work related stress. It is evidence based that employees who have suffered stress related illness are very difficult to get back to work and businesses are exceptionally poor at dealing with these type of wellbeing issues. How do we create the right culture of trust to create a stigma free workplace? The tone has to be set from the very top of your organisation. My clients who realise the importance of senior executives sharing how mental health has touched their own lives are seeing a tangible cultural shift. When top executives talk openly about mental health it makes it much easier for all employees to feel safe to do so. All people managers should be trained on how to create a kinder culture that drives employee energy. It is evidence based that managers will not speak to employees about wellbeing because they do not feel qualified. The great news is they don’t need to be qualified but educated on the importance of becoming more personable and how to direct employees to get appropriate professional help. David Beeney is a mental health advocate and a business advisor. David brings his personal experience of struggling with mental health problems, commercial background and business knowledge to help organisations implement mental health & wellbeing strategies within the workplace. David is committed to reducing the stigma of mental health in the workplace. The 10th edition of our highly regarded Market Insight Report represents the views of over 1,100 professionals, and contains insights from our specialist consultants and key business partners on market and employment trends. If you’re looking to find out more on salary benchmarking and the motivations driving the modern workforce today, download our full report which contains key contributions from Western Union Business Solutions, Women in Fund Finance, Intoo UK & Ireland and Seddons Solicitors.