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Wellbeing for 2021 - A review of the impacts of home working

by Joe Williams, Supplier Governance Manager at Aviva and member of the GSA Executive Council

The Covid pandemic has been a huge challenge for businesses across all sectors and industry, however in amongst the challenges some notable opportunities are presenting themselves. A recent survey completed by the City of London Corporation indicated that (of 52 COL based firms) 60% of COL firms were reviewing their space requirements. Pre pandemic figures suggested that less than 1 in 4 members of staff were working from home (WFH) at least one day a week prior to the pandemic compared to an expectation that from the end of the pandemic that this will increase to 3 in 4 staff members WFH at least once a week. At the GSA, we know that a large portion of our member base are also reviewing their property footprints (as we have done ourselves) with an expectation that more of our people will move to virtual way of working on a more frequent basis.

Whilst there are obvious opportunities that present themselves from having a more virtual workforce, we must also consider the potential wellbeing impacts on our people, to support this move to a more virtual workforce, the GSA has completed a Wellbeing study to identify trends and themes that we will all need to consider as we work through property plans, ensuring that we recognise the different wellbeing demands that are in place across our workforces.


The research focussed on understanding the impact to wellbeing against 4 different metrics:

  • Social wellbeing
  • Financial wellbeing
  • Life / Emotional wellbeing
  •  Job satisfaction wellbeing

Key Observations

1)      A major wellbeing challenge with WFH for firms to consider is PRESENTEEISM
  • Presenteeism is the practice of being ‘present’ at one’s job for more hours than is required, with research showing that where an individual is ‘present’ at work whilst ill, burned out, over worked etc. can impact productivity by a third or more.
  • Research showed that just short of 3/4 of people feel more inclined to work more hours and to work through illness whilst WFH – with 1/3 of responses indicating people were working 2 or more hours per day.
  • To ensure ongoing understanding or our people’s wellbeing, the GSA suggests that our members take proactive steps to monitor and review people’s working and illness patterns, and that we make sure people working virtually are taking proper care of themselves.
  • Ultimately, previous research (Harvard Business Review 2004) had identified that, ‘less time is lost from people staying home than from them showing up but not performing at full capacity’ so a focus on this area is not just good for our people’s wellbeing, but for our organisations in general.
3 steps to support and improve presenteeism issues are:
·       Educate our managers as to the potential problems and warning signs,
·       Educate our people, make them aware as to what presenteeism is and encourage them to speak to their managers where they feel they are,
·       Understand the individual issues which impact our people and how it affects them so a tailored support programme can be put in place

2)      Most people expect to increase or significantly increase their time working from home post the pandemic;
  • with 75% of people surveyed indicating they intend to work either permanently or frequently from home, an increase from 40% prior to the pandemic
  • The desire to increase homeworking across our sampled population is very strong, with a number of factors identified in the comments as to why
  • 44% of people identifying that they feel more productive WFH, with c50% identifying a reduction of at work distractions as the main driver for this, with reduced commute noted by c25% of responses.
  • 80% of people identifying a time saving due to no commute of at least 1 hour a day, with over 40% saving at least 2 hours a day
  • As part of footprint reviews, we are interested to know whether our member base is seeing a similar level of enthusiasm for future homeworking
3)      The primary wellbeing concerns people had related to social wellbeing factors;
  • responses to financial, life/emotional and job satisfaction had seen significant improvements with increased homeworking with a net promoter score* (NPS) range from 53% - 70%
  • NPS for social wellbeing was also positive at 17%, however this was significantly smaller than the NPS (NPS calculated by taking significant improvement & improvement less significant deterioration & deterioration)
  • Key detractor commentary from this section focussed on a feeling of isolation / lack of engagement (c50% of detractors)
  • A further element identified that where people surveyed didn’t have a ‘suitable’ workspace that 43% of responses felt that their overall perception of homeworking had worsened.
  • Another frequently mentioned factor impacting people’s productivity and wellbeing was the presence of children with just under 50% of detractors identifying impacts of children as a burden on their working life. On this point, whilst we recognise the short term impact, we would hope that this will not be an ongoing issue to deal with…..we hope!
How can we support our people who are struggling? Whilst the following may seem simple and obvious, the areas we suggest focus on are:
·       Understanding our individuals, make sure we know what makes them tick and how different factors are impacting them both positively and negatively
·       Regular virtual engagement – adding team events not just focussing on work but keeping engagement up
·       Reviewing future property footprints, ensuring that those people who wish to return to the office can do so
·       Understanding the working environments that our people have at home, are people supporting childcare, working in ‘unsuitable’ places?

4)      We are seeing significant increases in wellbeing across 3 of the 4 metrics
  • Life / Emotional wellbeing has an NPS for improvement of 70%, with key factors being:
  • Financial wellbeing has an NPS for improvement of 57%
  • Job satisfaction wellbeing has an NPS for improvement of 53%
Key factors impacting the 3 metrics were:
·       Reduction in travel and commuting
·       Reduction in ‘pointless meetings & office politics’
·      Significant increase in personal/family time

The underlying data from the research indicates that the move to more homeworking has seen an increase in wellbeing, this is something that needs to be cultivated, invested in and focussed on. When considering our future footprints, and working practices the GSA would encourage all organisations to look at the wellbeing impacts of increased homeworking as well as the potential issues, to support the financial business cases being pulled together for the future.

View the Wellbeing Survey Appendix here.

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