The Remote Workforce – What’s Next?

January 13, 2021 Aon's Assessment Solutions

An article in The Times Special Report on the future of work explored why it is that some of us have embraced the enforced remote, virtual, work-from-home working lifestyle, while others are champing at the bit to return to the office.

It’s All About the Individual

Research by Dr Chidiebere Ogbonnaya, a senior lecturer in organizational behavior/human resource management at the University of Sussex Business School in the UK, examined individual personality characteristics in relation to the enjoyment or satisfaction of working from home of 3,200 UK workers. Indeed, Tarandeep Singh, who leads Aon’s Assessment Solutions, gave his own insights on this subject during the early days of remote working.

Dr Ogbonnaya discovered that ‘introverted’ individuals and those scoring high on ‘agreeableness’ were quite satisfied to work from home. Those ‘curious’ and ‘willing to try new things’ also reported feeling comfortable with the shift to remote working. However, those with low ‘conscientiousness’ seemed to struggle with home-based working. Dr Ogbonnaya argues that this could be because they need greater structure and find it hard to organize themselves. Less comfortable with working from home were those scoring high on ‘neuroticism’; these individuals may also prefer the in-person collaboration of the office.

It seems that one’s own comfort and desire to work from home or from the office has plenty to do with our personality. The question is: what will organizations do as the option to go back to the office returns? What if the company workforce doesn’t return? Aon’s John McLaughlin explored this recently when he outlined Aon’s Accelerate Model.

New Ways of Working

Few expect a wholesale return to the office. More likely, there will be a hybrid model whereby some of the working week is home-based and part is in the office.

Indeed, an Aon pulse survey back in April 2020 showed that 84% of organizations were exploring different working models. More recently, it seems that this keenness to consider what will work best going forward and adopt a more agile approach to work and workforce remains.

This ‘agility’ continues to be viewed as important. 84% of HR leaders said that workforce agility was extremely or very important. 74% pointed out that their support for an agile workforce will be part of their employee value proposition (EVP) in the future.

More recent reports show that companies are taking action. 75% of companies either have (or are actively considering putting together) a team to define, manage and implement what the future of work looks like.

Recognition of Individual Importance

The challenge will be for organizations to make sure that they include individual preference when examining these new ways of working. However, it is also about which roles are best suited to office- or home-based working – and organizations are coming around to this.

Only 17% of firms are conducting a formal assessment of employee propensity to perform their work remotely on a permanent basis. Only 24% have completed a formal assessment of jobs or roles that can be performed away from the office – but a further 33% are actively considering it.

Half of those surveyed reported that the guiding principle that best describes their approach to moving to an on-site, virtual or hybrid model of working is that they will provide employees with the ongoing flexibility to working in the office or virtually, as needed. Only 6% see a return to the pre-pandemic work environment.

What Next?

It is clear that organizations and employees alike are exploring opportunities and rethinking where work is carried out. There will be a balance between what the role demands and requires, as well as individual preference and productivity levels.

As Dr Ogbonnaya comments in The Times: “It’s time [for organizations] to look beneath the surface and really get to know their employees.” You can read the full article here.

Contact us if you would like to explore how best to get to know your employees – and how to accelerate your organization’s workforce of the future.

About the Author

Aon creates smart measurement solutions with valid and innovative online assessment products. Aon is globally the preferred partner for organisations who demand the best.

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