Posted By Westfield Health

Posted on30th July 2021

In our latest report, the Future of Work, we asked 1,500 people how they feel about the new normal. Across the whole workforce, 51% of people say they are worried about returning to work, but when split by company size, more nuances appear.

Those in small companies of under 50 employees seem generally more relaxed about the return, with just over a third (37%) saying they’re worried about going into work. In companies with over 50 employees the percentage of employees feeling anxious grows to 55%.

Across all company sizes, there is a significant need for support that gives employees confidence to return to work. Keeping Covid security measures in place is an obvious starting point, but it’s also important to maintain open channels of communication with employees so their worries can be heard.

When asked how well their employer has communicated their return-to-work plans, many employees say there’s room for improvement. Those in medium sized companies (50-249 employees) are happiest with the communication they’ve received, with 59% saying they’re ‘very satisfied’. In large businesses with over 250 employees, this figure falls to 46%.

What flexible working options are on offer for employees?

While Government guidance has been relaxed, it is still up to individual businesses to decide how their people should work over the coming months. With over half of employees working from home during the pandemic, flexible working has been in the spotlight this year.

Companies with over 250 employees were the most likely to offer flexible start and end times. Over a fifth (21%) of employees in large corporations have this perk available to them, compared to just 11% in companies with under 50 employees.

Mid-sized companies with 50-249 employees are the least likely to offer the option to work from home, with just 29% having remote work available, compared to 42% in companies with over 250 employees. Those in medium sized companies are also the least happy with their flexible working options, with almost a fifth (18%) saying they’re unsatisfied, and 13% saying they feel less engaged because of it.

What would help employee wellbeing the most?

The types of wellbeing support on offer differ greatly by company size. This isn’t too surprising given the vast differences in budget and resources, but are employee wellbeing programmes meeting expectations?

Those in small companies of under 50 employees are the least likely to value policies that support wellbeing. Only 6% said this should be a priority, compared to 14% in large corporations.

Small business employees are also significantly more likely to say they don’t need any wellbeing support. When asked what wellbeing initiatives would help them return to work, over 1 in 10 (13%) in small businesses said ‘none of these’, compared to just 1% in medium sized companies. Smaller businesses are also the least likely to offer any wellbeing support at all (35% have no wellbeing initiatives compared to only 15% in large corporations) so it could simple be the case that employees don’t miss what they’ve never had.

Even so, the disparity in wellbeing support across different company sizes is creating divide in the workforce. This is most striking when it comes to mental health support. Only 11% of small businesses offer mental health support, compared to 40% of those with 250+ employees. While expectations around wellbeing may be higher in larger companies, those in smaller businesses will certainly feel the impact if they’re lacking in support.

As businesses emerge into the new normal, and the new policies it may bring, leaders must consider how the return to work will impact their people and what wellbeing options they would benefit from. If they can manage this manage process carefully, with strong communication along the way, it provides a unique opportunity to trial new ways of working which can help their people thrive. To view the survey findings in more detail, download our Future of Work report.

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