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UK Firms Embrace Remote Working to Stay Competitive

Unconventional working helps retain and attract staff, demonstrating trust in employees…

British workers are embracing remote working, finds new research by Virgin Media Business and conducted by YouGov. The study reveals that three-quarters (74%) of the remote workers surveyed believe that traditional working patterns have been redefined due to changes in globalisation and competition., with over a third (39%) of UK businesses trading internationally, according to the British Chambers of Commerce.  

The research, which surveyed over 1,274remote workers , reiterates the growing trend towards less conventional working practices, with 84% believing traditional 9 to 5 business hours apply less now compared with 10 years ago. 

New ways of working are being fuelled by employees desire to take greater control of their lives, with over three-quarters (77%) of respondents stating that remote working helps them address their  work-life balance. The ability to work from anywhere at any time is not only becoming the norm, but almost four in five employees (78%) believe companies today need to offer it to attract and retain staff. 

Remote working is also helping employees perform better in their roles. An overwhelming majority (81%) believe remote working makes their working life much more productive and, more importantly, 84% believe that allowing staff to work remotely shows that their company trusts and values them.

From the research Virgin Media Business went on to identify that remote workers fall into four groups: 

  • Beginners – These people are fairly new to the concept of remote working, and may have just started working this way, are considering it as an option, or their personal circumstances have forced them to look into remote working.
  • Loungers – These people are in the early stages of remote working. They focus on working from home rather than from remote locations as they have a greater tendency to want to slow down the intensity of work, which could be partially down to the job at hand.
  • Adapters – These people are happy to embrace new ways of working and are keen to understand how technology can facilitate this, but they need some guidance on how best to use it.
  • Connectors – These people are very tech-savvy. They are always on, connected and keen to take the business to a better place. Typically, they embrace the technology, plan their day, and are great with time efficiency, contactable and very flexible.

Duncan Higgins, marketing director, Virgin Media Business, said:  “Workers today expect their employers to not only allow flexible working practices, but also to provide them with the tools and training they need to do it well. If done correctly, remote working can transform an organisation, making the work environment less complex and enabling employees to be more collaborative and deliver a better service in an increasingly competitive business environment.”

However the research also found that a quarter of the workers surveyed believe that  remote working is misunderstood because little to no training is provided by companies to employees on how best to embrace remote working. There is also a lack of understanding and trust has in the past inhibited companies’ willingness to allow staff to work remotely. A third of employees (34%) think remote working is misunderstood due to a lack of trust between organisations and their remote employees, while 42% believe co-workers don’t trust remote workers. 

Professor Cary Cooper, psychologist and professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School and founding director of Robertson Cooper, who assisted in the development of the research, said: “It is human nature to not trust these new ways of working; we have a behavioural tendency to distrust practices which are outside the norm. But companies that trust and embrace flexible working and enable their staff to do so, often have a better, stronger and more open relationship with their staff.”

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