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Employees Becoming ‘Emotionally Remote’ During Coronavirus

More than half (52%) of UK employees have said that the boundaries between their work and home life are becoming increasingly blurred due to working from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to insurance provider Aviva’s new Embracing the Age of Ambiguity report, employees said they are becoming emotionally remote whilst working from home. 

Just 15% agreed that their employer is trying hard to understand what motivates them, and a quarter (26%) said their employer is genuinely concerned about their wellbeing. 

Speaking to HR magazine, Paul Wilson, chief marketing officer at Aviva UK Life, Savings and Retirement said that employees’ needs and expectations have evolved while remote working. 

He said: “Our evidence suggests that employees are increasingly ‘plodding’ through work. 

“They seek work-life balance, control over career progression and help with wellbeing and retirement planning. Understanding employee motivations is a key opportunity for HR teams to strengthen engagement and combat the sense of ‘employee drift’ in the workplace.” 

The majority (73%) of employees surveyed said where they work hasn’t changed since the start of the March lockdown. This has reportedly had an impact on employee mental health. 

Two in five (43%) employees described their wellbeing as being less than good, and more than a third (34%) said they did carry on working even when they felt unwell. 

Heightened anxiety has also led to employees working longer hours and taking fewer sick days over a three-month period (67% in February vs. 84% in August). 

While the report suggested responsibility is on employers to ensure they provide the right environment for employee work-life balance and wellbeing to thrive, it stated it is “a two-way street” and employees need to play their part too. 

Fifty-four per cent of UK employees said that their employer has worked hard to create a sense of ‘company togetherness’. They are predominantly doing this by embracing an open dialogue and communicating future working arrangements, according to 60% of employees. 

In the report, Laura Stewart Smith, workplace savings manager at Aviva said: “A new ‘psychological contract’ will only work if it’s based on the same unambiguous outcome – better mental health and financial and physical wellbeing – and each party should play their respective roles to uphold this.” 

In response to the report’s findings, Aviva made a series of recommendations it believes will help employers reset relationships with employees. 

It advised that employers should personalise mental health and wellbeing support; maintain a sense of purpose, clarity and autonomy in the workplace; prepare workers for fuller working lives and the transition from work to retirement and create more targeted interventions by understanding personality types.

By Emma Greedy HRMagazine

CAEHRS Opportunity: Shaw Trust
November 18, 2020
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Shaw Trust has been selected as a Tier 1 supplier for the DWP CAEHRS in London and the Home Counties and are seeking Expressions of Interests from organisations who we can partner with in one or more of the below capacities:

  • Employability Partners
  • Skills Providers
  • Employers & Employer Representative bodies

Shaw Trust’s CAEHRS London and Home Counties EoI Opportunity

Shaw Trust is running the procurement of partners through Proactis as an open EoI. This EoI will remain open throughout the bidding period, however a deadline of the 26 November 2020 at 5:00pm has been set for the first phase of partner selection.

Registering your interest
All providers interested in working with us on any CAEHRS call offs should register through the following link:
https://supplierlive.proactisp2p.com/Account/Login

Once registered search for “The Shaw Trust CAEHRS Expression of interest”.

One in Five Freelancers Could Quit Self-employment

By: Rachel Miller

After two decades of growth in UK self-employment, a new study by the London School of Economics has found that one in five freelancers consider it likely that they’ll leave self-employment as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

The research, undertaken by the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics (LSE), found that the easing of pandemic restrictions over the summer only had a marginal effect on the self-employed, with 58% saying they had less work than usual in August 2020.

The LSE report – COVID-19 and the Self-Employed: Six Months into the Crisis – has found that even after England’s first lockdown lifted, 32% of self-employed workers had fewer than 10 hours of work a week in August.

Self-employed workers who operate through digital apps in the gig economy have had more work, according to the LSE report. However, 78% of these workers – including parcel delivery workers and private hire drivers – said they felt their health was at risk while working.

Other key findings include:

  • 28% of respondents had applied for a second grant under the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS);
  • Of those who had not applied for either the first or second rounds of the SEISS grant, 38% were not sure of their eligibility;
  • A third of respondents think normal activity will not resume until after February 2021;
  • One in ten think it will never resume.

Of most concern is that 20% of freelancers polled said they “consider it likely” that they’ll leave self-employment as a result of the crisis – this rises to 59% among those aged under 25. The newly self-employed are more than twice as likely to report having trouble with basic expenses when compared to other self-employed workers (52% versus 24%).

Stephen Machin, co-author and CEP director, said:

“While the growth in self-employment has been one of the key trends in the labour market in the past two decades, there are now early signals that this trend could be set to reverse.

“By the summer, there had already been a sharp fall in the number of self-employed workers – this may be primarily due to the lockdown, but for some it will be due to realising the risks of self-employment. The COVID-19 crisis has vividly illustrated the social insurance available to different types of workers, with many experiencing the basic safety net of Universal Credit for the first time.”

According to the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), “glaring gaps in support” are leading to “long-term, avoidable decline” in the self-employment sector.

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that the number of self-employed workers in the UK has already fallen to 4.53 million, down from 5.1 million at the end of 2019.

Derek Cribb, IPSE ceo, said:

“After the 2008 financial crisis, it was rising self-employed numbers that kept unemployment comparatively low – as uncertain employers looked for more flexible expertise instead of permanent employees. Now, this does not appear to be happening and the self-employed sector is in precipitous decline. Some self-employed are finding their way into full-time roles, but many others are joining the record flow into unemployment.

“Government must work quickly to stem this flow by urgently getting support to the left-behind self-employed groups. Extending support would be a cost now, yes, but it would be a temporary cost during the pandemic, to hold back an even worse unemployment problem later.”

Written by Rachel Miller.

Free Webinar: Funding and Policy Update by C&G
November 10, 2020
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Thursday, November 12th, 2020 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM GMT

This free webinar will be a short and sharp update on the recent changes to the AEB and Apprenticeship funding rules and some of the policy announcements that have been made since early September, including the announcements about further post 16 qualification reforms.

City & Guilds aim is to support you with information that will enable you to plan your strategy effectively, so you can support more people to develop the skills they need to progress into a job, on the job and onto their next job.

Register Here

FBS Small Business Index

The latest FSB Small Business Index has found that times are tougher than ever for small firms after two difficult years.

The survey of 1,500 UK small firms, conducted by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), finds that SME confidence has been in negative territory for nine consecutive quarters – since July 2018. It comes as small business revenue growth hits an all-time low and staff lay-offs hit an all-time high.

The Q3 SBI confidence figure stands at -32.6, down 28 points on last quarter. Only a third (34%) of those surveyed at the end of last month expect their performance to improve over the coming three months. The significant majority (66%) expect performance to worsen.

The findings also show that a record one in four (25%) small firms reduced headcounts last quarter. An even higher proportion (29%) expect to make redundancies over the coming three months; 12% say they expect to let at least a quarter of their staff go.

COVID-related disruption has caused revenue growth to fall to its lowest recorded ebb, with more than half (56%) of those surveyed reporting a drop. A similar share (50%) expect revenues to fall next quarter.

The FSB is warning that any potential economic recovery is stalling ahead of a difficult trading period in the run-up to Christmas and the end of the Brexit transition period. More than half of exporters polled say international sales have fallen over the past three months.

Although the FSB has welcomed the chancellor’s improvements to the current business and job support schemes, it is now calling for new measures, including:

  • Support for those that have received no income support to date;
  • A reduction in the cost of hiring new staff;
  • Lessening the burden of business rates;
  • Providing more resources for those looking to start a business for the first time.

“We must not forget that small firms were already under the cosh thanks to political uncertainty, rising costs and creaking infrastructure well before the Spring,” said Mike Cherry, FSB national chairman.

“The chancellor made some very welcome adjustments to support measures last week … However, too many are still without the help they need to weather current disruption – not least company directors, the newly self-employed, those without premises and those further down supply chains in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors. An ambitious rescue package for these groups is urgently needed.

“If we want small business owners to create jobs, we have to bring down the costs of employment, starting with employer national insurance contributions. If we want them to invest, innovate and expand, we have to alleviate the strain of wider government-imposed overheads, including those stemming from an outdated business rates system which continues to stifle too many community businesses all over the country.”

Written by Rachel Miller.

Generation Covid in Need of More Educational Support
October 30, 2020
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The coronavirus pandemic has reportedly had the biggest impact on young people, especially those from a deprived background, as their education and job prospects have been largely affected.

Under 25s have been named ‘Generation Covid’ due to cuts to their earnings, education and job prospects, leading to fears for the long-term impact on the futures.

BBC Panorama found that people aged 16-to-25 were more than twice as likely as older workers to have lost their job, while six in 10 saw their earnings fall.

Jonathan Smith, chief executive at logistics firm APC Overnight told HR magazine:

“Whilst this year has understandably proved challenging for many, it’s critical that wherever possible, businesses consider the longer-term opportunities they can make available.

“Recruiting young people is key not just to businesses, but also to communities; without employment opportunities the young can’t contribute to their local areas and are ultimately forced to go elsewhere for employment.

“This could create real problems for future recruitment and talent acquisition,” said Smith.

Panorama’s research also highlighted the impact that school closures have had on young people, and how students from poorer backgrounds have received far less education than those from more privileged families.

Analysis: The impact of Universal Credit in Wales
October 29, 2020
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Analysis: The impact of Universal Credit in Wales by Policy in Practice

Just before the onset of COVID-19, Policy in Practice completed a major study of the impact of Universal Credit in Wales. Early in 2019, we were commissioned by the Welsh Government to look at how Universal Credit had affected the Welsh Council Tax Reduction Scheme. The Welsh Government also wanted to know if the introduction of Universal Credit had led to any changes in the level of rent and council tax arrears. 

Groundbreaking study

This study broke new ground for Policy in Practice: 

We made extensive use of administrative data from all 22 Welsh local authorities, tracking the benefit journeys of claimants in four waves over a period of 12 months, and matching with data on rent arrears and council tax arrears. It was the first time we have used data from so many authorities and housing associations in one national project. The matching and analysis were complex and very challenging, but well worth the effort.·       

We also ran two large-scale surveys to get a better understanding of the personal experiences of Universal Credit that are not evident from administrative data. We invited people to take part in the survey in several ways, one of which was via a link in our award-winning Benefit and Budgeting Calculator. Nearly 500 actual and potential benefit claimants completed the claimant survey, and nearly 500 stakeholders such as social and private landlords, local authority officials and third sector organisations completed the stakeholder survey.
Five findings from the 18 month data-led investigation into Universal Credit in Wales

There is a wealth of information in the two reports published by the Welsh Government, an interim report published in January 2020 and the final report published in July 2020. The key findings are:
1.     A generous Council Tax Reduction (CTR) Scheme pays off
2.     Universal Credit has resulted in some council tax and rent arrears
3.     Awareness of CTR, and take-up, are still too low
4.     The impact of Universal Credit on CTR can be mitigated by changes to the scheme
5.     More help should be given to those claiming Universal Credit
Further analysis commissioned to understand the impact of COVID-19

This research was carried out before the COVID-19 pandemic and so does not take account of the increase in Universal Credit claims that have resulted. We are delighted that the Welsh Government has now asked us to analyse the impact of the pandemic on CTR caseloads. We will look at the economic impact, demographic changes, and likely impact on future CTR caseloads and council tax collection rates.

Find out more

Pooling administrative data can help other areas plan for and track recovery from COVID-19. Policy in Practice has secured funding to help with this. Find out more here or contact us to discuss.·       

Published in January 2020, the interim report focuses on the impact of Universal Credit on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS) and possible amendments to the scheme. Download the interim report

Published in July 2020, the final report looks at the impact of Universal Credit on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, council tax reduction awards, council tax arrears and rent arrears. It also considers the experience of Universal Credit claimants and stakeholders. Download the final report
Join our next webinars
How to find the right debt solution for everyone on Wed 11 November. Register

2020: Policy review of the year, and a forward look to 2021 on Wed 9 December. Register

Our webinars are free and start at 10.30 for 1 hour 15 mins. If you can’t make the date please register anyway to automatically receive the slides and recording. Contact hello@policyinpractice.co.uk.
Low Pay Rises Forecast For 2021
October 28, 2020
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Employers in the private sector are expected to increase pay by an average of just 1% in the year ahead as a result of COVID-19. 

Pay rises have been falling over the past 12 months, with average pay rise now worth 2.2% down from 2.5% this time last year, research from pay analysts XpertHR found. 

Most employers said they were likely to issue pay freezes, with nearly half (44.8%) of private companies saying they do not expect to increase staff wages.

Looking to 2021, XpertHR said that against the background of the coronavirus pandemic many employers in the private sector are “proceeding with caution”.

Sheila Attwood, XpertHR pay and benefits editor, said: “The devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on company finances has seen the value of pay rises fall to the floor over the past few months. 

“Many employers are not optimistic that they will be in a position to award a pay rise in 2021, with a pay freeze easily the most expected outcome of any pay review next year.”

However, the research also showed that manufacturing and production employers are predicting higher pay rises than the private sector overall, at a median 1.5%

The research was based on the pay of 1,600 private organisations. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that the number of redundancies in the UK had accelerated at the fastest pace since the financial crisis in 2007-2008.

Tax Relief and Home Working

By The Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) Last Updated 19th October 2020

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 homeworking has become the norm for many millions of people.

Home

A common concern is what, if any, recompense employees can get for any additional costs as a result of their new arrangements.

In general, the starting point is to look at the existing rules for homeworking, which have been around for some time, but there are also covid-specific concessions to consider.

This article covers:

  • What homeworking expenses employers can reimburse tax-free.
  • The tax reliefs that employees can claim – including some covid-specific provisions.
  • Specific issues regarding the provision of office equipment.

Option 1: Employer reimbursement of costs

From 2003, employers have been able to make tax-free payments to help employees cover their reasonable additional expenses incurred while working from home. Eligible payments are not subject to either income tax or national insurance.

Which employees are eligible?

To be eligible, the employee must be carrying out the duties of their employment under homeworking arrangements. This means that the employee is regularly performing some or all of their duties at home.

HMRC guidance notes that they will accept an employee is working at home regularly where it is frequent, or follows a pattern, such as working at home for two days of every week. In the example of an employee working two days a week at home, HMRC will still consider it to be regular even if the employee varies the days which they work at home each week. 

Informal working at home which is not by arrangement does not count as homeworking – for example taking work home in the evenings will not qualify the employee for tax-free reimbursement of costs. There must be an arrangement to work at home and not at the employer’s premises, and it is good practice for this to be in writing.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, HMRC will accept that employees working from home because their employer’s offices have closed – or because the employee is following advice to self-isolate – meet these requirements. Newly home-based employees will be eligible to receive the allowance tax free from the date that their employer agreed they could work from home, or from when the initial government advice to work at home was announced in March 2020.

What costs can the payments cover?

The reimbursements can only cover reasonable additional costs incurred by the homeworking employee. There are two main approaches.

Firstly, the employer can pay the following fixed amounts:

  • £6/week for weekly paid employees (£4/week prior to 6 April 2020); or
  • £26/month for monthly paid employees (£18/month prior to 6 April 2020).

The advantage of paying at these rates is that there is no need for the employer to justify the expenditure and the employee does not need to keep records of their additional costs.

The weekly, flat-rate amount applies equally to part-time workers and it is not necessary to pro-rate it because the employee does not work at home full-time.

If the flat-rate is not appropriate, then a larger tax-free amount can be paid subject to provision of evidence for the additional costs. There are two ways to do this.

The first approach is to calculate a scale rate payment which reimburses the average additional costs of working at home. It is possible to agree to increase this annually. Once the scale rate has been established following HMRC guidance, then employees are not required to keep subsequent evidence of costs.

In practice, we do not expect HMRC to have the resources to agree scale-rates during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Alternatively, the employer can reimburse the actual additional costs incurred by the employee. Allowable costs include:

  • additional heating and lighting costs
  • additional insurance
  • metered water
  • telephone or internet access charges
  • business rates (if applicable)

Only the increase in costs incurred by the employee can be reimbursed. Costs that would be the same whether or not you work at home cannot be included. Such costs might include:

  • mortgage interest or rent
  • council tax
  • water rates

For costs such as broadband internet connection, HMRC say that if the employee is already paying for a connection before starting working from home then this is an existing expense and cannot be reimbursed tax-free. If, however, the employee is not connected to broadband and needs a connection to work from home, then this would qualify as an additional cost which the employer could reimburse tax-free. 

The same principles will apply for the cost of a domestic landline rental. Only additional costs incurred by the employee as a result of homeworking can be reimbursed by their employer tax-free.

The employer is also not permitted to reimburse tax-free any costs that put the employee in a position to work at home such as building alterations. However, the employer can provide office equipment and office furniture. These would be tax-free benefits in kind. (Although see below for tax issues that can arise where the employee provides their own equipment.)  

Option 2: Employee seeks tax relief

If an employer does not choose to reimburse some or all of the homeworking employee’s extra expenses, then under the existing rules the employee is not automatically allowed tax relief on their extra costs. Tax relief for extra costs is only given if such costs are incurred wholly, exclusively and necessarily for the employee’s work.

Which employees are eligible under the usual rules?

In order to claim tax relief for homeworking costs, the usual rules are that an employee must show that their home is a workplace. HMRC will accept that a home is a workplace where:

  1. The employee performs substantive duties at home. Substantive duties are the tasks that employees must carry out which form all or part of the central duties of their employment. 
  2. The duties require the use of appropriate facilities and such facilities are not available to the employee on the employer’s premises. (Or the employee lives so far away from the premises it is unreasonable to expect them to travel there on a daily basis.)
  3. At no time before or after the employment contract is drawn up is the employee able to choose between working at the employer’s premises or elsewhere.

While the first two of these conditions are likely to be met by employees homeworking as a result of COVID-19, it was not immediately clear whether HMRC would consider the third to have been met during the pandemic.

Temporary relaxation during the pandemic

On 27 March 2020, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury suggested in a written parliamentary answer that HMRC might take a more lenient view on tax relief for homeworking expenses during the pandemic for those employees who do not meet the strict definition of home as workplace and whose employers will not make any contribution to their costs.

In October 2020, further clarification from HMRC was supplied to the ATT and other professional bodies to confirm that relief will be available for individuals who are working at home on a regular basis for all or part of their time as a result of coronavirus. We understand that this relaxation to the usual tests will apply for 2020/21 (and we presume also to the short period at teh end of 2019/20 when the Government first advised mass homeworking), as long as the employee is not working at home by choice.

HMRC is emphasising that it is not possible for employees to simply decide to work from home in light of the Government’s advice. There must be a discussion with the employer and, if the employer decides that the employee should wokr from home, the deduction will be available.

For example, if the employer cannot accommodate the employee in the office because of social distancing, then the employee would be entitled to claim. But where the employer offers the employee the option to return to work but the employee chooses to remain at home, the deduction is not available.

What costs can the payments cover?

An employee who either meets the usual rules, or falls within the temporary relaxation of regular home working as a result of coronavirus, can claim relief for the following expenses. With the exception of insurance, are very similar to the costs that can be reimbursed by their employer above:

  • additional heating and lighting
  • metered water

An employee cannot claim relief for the following expenses:

  • mortgage interest or rent
  • council tax
  • water rates
  • insurance

Where, as is often the case, it is not practical to calculate the allowable extra costs, then a claim for £26 per month (£18 per month prior to 6 April 2020) for monthly paid employees or £6 a week (£4 per week prior to 6 April 2020) can be made without having to justify the figure. This does not cover the cost of business calls, for which an additional claim can be made based on actual costs. This is confirmed in a recent update to HMRC’s manuals at EIM32815.

Where the employee works from home some, but not all of the time – for example they work at home three days a week and in the office two days a week – they can still claim the full £6 a week deduction. There is no need to scale it back just because the employee is not working at home on a full time basis.

Where the employer pays some contribution towards homeworking expenses, but not the full £6 a week or £26 a month, then the employee can seek tax relief for the difference.

How to make claims:

An employee can make a claim:

  • Online, with the new P87 micro-service which was launched on 1 October 2020
  • By phone
  • By post
  • Or, if they are registered for self-assessment, through their tax return.

Full details are available from GOV.UK and HMRC has a tool, to help guide employees to the most appropriate method for their circumstances. 

Claims for the homeworking allowance for 2020/21 can be made through the new micro-service even before the end of the tax year on 5 April 2021. HMRC have said that they will apply the relief for the whole year even if the employee then returns to the office before 5 April 2021.

Claims for homeworking allowances will not be automatically rolled forward into 2021/22 and it is not currently HMRC’s intention to extend the modified approach being applied to claims in 2020/21 to 2021/22. Anyone claiming homeworking allowance for 2021/22 will need to meet the usual conditions.

Purchases of Office Equipment

It is generally accepted that working solely on a laptop for long periods is poor practice, and can lead to discomfort and back pain. Many homeworkers will need additional equipment including monitors, keyboards and even desks and chairs in order to make a functional office space at home. Fortunately, following an announcement on 13 May 2020, some of the unintended outcomes which could arise here have been dealt with by the Government.

Employer purchase

If the employer has purchased and provided any necessary equipment then, provided there is no significant private use, no taxable benefit in kind arises on the employee.

(If there is significant private use, then a benefit in kind will arise and so employers may wish to ensure that their employment policies make clear that significant private use is not permitted.)

If, at a later date, ownership of the asset is transferred from the employer to the employee then a benefit in kind could arise.

Employee purchase and employer reimburses

In some circumstances, employees may have purchased their own equipment personally in order to get set up as soon as possible. Employers may even have advised this, and offered to reimburse the costs afterwards.

Usually, employer reimbursements of employee expenses are treated differently for tax purposes and this approach involving a subsequent reimbursement is normally taxable on the employee. This is clearly unwelcome, and therefore the announcement on of a temporary exemption from income tax and national insurance for such reimbursements is very welcome.

The relevant legislation took effect on 11 June 2020 and introduces a temporary measure for the period to 5 April 2021. Using their discretion, HMRC are treating the exemption as applying from 16 March 2020. Under the provision, any reimbursement by an employer for the cost of equipment is exempt from income tax and national insurance as long as it:

  • was provided for the sole purpose of enabling homeworking as a result of coronavirus, and
  • would have been tax exempt if provided directly by the employer.

Furthermore, any private use of the reimbursed equipment should not be significant.

As this exemption has been laid under powers provided for by section 210 of ITEPA 2003 (power to exempt minor benefits) – and equivalent sections for NICs – any exemption is conditional on the benefit being made available to all an employer’s employees generally on similar terms. Therefore, employers should ensure that similar reimbursement terms apply to all employees that need to work from home. It will not, for example, be acceptable for directors to ensure that they are reimbursed for office equipment but other staff are not.

If at some point in the future the employee returns to work and retains the equipment, HMRC have confirmed via guidance that no benefit in kind will arise at that point.

Employee purchases but employer does not reimburse

If the employer is unable or unwilling to reimburse the cost of equipment or office furniture, then employees will need to see if they are able to satisfy the conditions to claim tax relief through capital allowances.

This requires them to demonstrate that the equipment is used in the performance of their duties. Under current HMRC guidance, they are likely to struggle to obtain relief under capital allowances for office furniture.

This is because office furniture such as desks and chairs put the employee in a (more comfortable) position to do their duties. The items are not used in the actual duties themselves in the way that a laptop or printer would be. The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group in particular are urging caution here.

Accordingly, tax relief from HMRC is unlikely for the costs of office furniture and employees may wish to seek reimbursement from their employer. But tax relief for office equipment used in their duties is possible although employer reimbursement remains the better option.

Claims for office furniture cannot be made through the new online portal (microservice).

Remote Working Leading to ‘Hidden Fractures’ in the Workforce
October 16, 2020
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Hidden fractures’ caused by working from home are forming in the workforce and risk causing irreparable damage to cultures and productivity, according to new research from digital culture platform Totem.

The organisation’s survey of 1,000 UK employees found that while the shift to home working during the coronavirus pandemic has been a positive experience for many, there have been issues emerging around a lack of interaction, collaboration, recognition and support that could cause lasting damage to workplace trust, culture and engagement.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of employees feel that working from home has had a positive impact on workplace culture, with the majority (61%) saying they are able to complete their work effectively while working from home.

But despite these benefits, Totem also found that while working from home, over half (55%) of employees feel it has been harder to work as a team, 54% feel less motivated, and 51% feel it is harder to reach out for help from teammates.

Totem warned that unless employers address these issues, surviving and maintaining growth as the economy recovers after the pandemic will be a much bigger challenge, particularly as remote working is likely to remain the norm for most in the short and medium term.

Marcus Thornley, CEO of Totem, said that businesses would have to find new ways to celebrate daily successes if remote teams are to stay motivated.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “The saying goes ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and, worryingly, for many companies working remotely right now, that may be the case as they struggle to communicate – and recognise each other’s successes – as they would in the office environment.”

The research also found there is a strong desire from many employees for remote working to continue.

While the majority (88%) of respondents worked from an office before COVID-19 hit, many people said they would now feel anxious (28%) or unhappy (18%) if their employer made it mandatory to return to the office full-time.

If they could choose, only 25% said they would work from an office full-time while 44% would choose hybrid working and the remaining 31% would choose to work from home full-time.

In addition to recognition (critical for 33% of respondents) the study found that accessible support and guidance when you need it (31%) was one of the most important elements to creating a positive remote working culture.

Thornley added: “First and foremost, business leaders need to design for remote. The reality is that many teams will have to operate on some sort of remote basis for the foreseeable future, so you need to ensure that you are working to create a shared experience, regardless of their location.

“For instance, although people may be sitting in their kitchen or living room, this doesn’t mean you can’t create meaningful experiences at key moments in employee life-cycles – whether that’s onboarding, promotions, new business wins, or leaving.

“If effectively supported, these key moments can positively shape sentiment towards employers, role and colleagues.”

Consumer research for the survey was undertaken on behalf of Totem by Pollfish, with fieldwork conducted online on 11September 2020.