Workers log on, tune in, but unable to drop out: CIPD study

New research from the professional body for HR and people development into UK working habits find that a third of employees with remote IT access find it difficult to turn off from work.

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The study of over 2,000 UK people carried out in conjunction with performance management software company, Halogen, found a third (32 per cent) with remote access by digital means to their workplace felt they could not switch off in their personal time.Four in ten admit reported in the latest CIPD Employment Outlook that they actively check their work mobile or emails at least five times a day outside of working hours. Worryingly, 18 per cent “feel as though they are under surveillance with remote access to work” and 17 per cent said it makes them feel anxious or impacts their quality of sleep.

Pros and cons of remote access

While these insights raise questions about workplace wellbeing in the age of technology, particularly for people working across multiple time zones and teams, they also suggest a digital divide, particularly between the public and private sector.A similar number to people who find it difficult to log off (32%) say they feel empowered by having remote access to the workplace (30%). They point to how remote access helps them to work flexibly (53%). Just over a third (37%) also say they believe it makes them more productive.Private sector employees are more likely to say that they can always switch off from work (47%) compared to those in the public (35%) and voluntary sectors (29%).Those in the public sector are also almost twice as likely to check their work mobile or emails at least five times a day outside of working hours (32%), than those in the voluntary (17%) and private sectors (23%).

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Guidance needed to support wellbeing

Commenting on the figures, Claire McCartney, associate research adviser at the CIPD, said: “Flexible working has an important role to play in modern workplaces, and remote access to work can open up the jobs market to those who may not have been able to access it before.“However, a lack of clarity and guidance for employees around remote working can cultivate an environment where some employees feel unable to physically or mentally switch off.“This can have adverse effects on employee wellbeing and their engagement with the organisation, as well as their productivity at work.Employers therefore need to have a clear approach to remote working as well as create a wider enabling culture, where employees feel trusted and empowered to take ownership of their work, but also able to speak out if they are struggling.”Dominique Jones, chief people officer at Halogen Software, also commented: “Technology makes it easier than ever to connect people and teams in an organisation, whether they’re in the physical workplace or not.“Organisations should focus on providing employees with the tools and resources to access what they need, when they need it, to improve their performance.”

The spring issue of Relocate magazine features more of the latest research and analysis on HR, education and skills. Download your copy here. Relocate will also be reporting from the CIPD Learning & Development show on 10-11 May 2017 to bring you the latest insights.

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