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Hybrid set to be future working model, while employers reluctant to mandate vaccination

Just three-in-ten employers expect to have their workforce fully back onsite in two years’ time, according to a study by Willis Towers Watson. While the vast majority (85 per cent) of businesses anticipate a return to the workplace for most employees who want to by the end of 2021, employers do not anticipate a return to pre-pandemic working practices.

Employers think about a quarter of the workforce (23 per cent) will work remotely on a full-time basis in two years’ time, and almost half (41 per cent) will embrace hybrid working.

Lucie McGrath, director, health and benefits GB, Willis Towers Watson, said:

“While some uncertainty remains about exactly what the journey towards the “new normal” looks like, one thing’s for sure: hybrid working is here to stay. We’ve all weathered a huge amount of change over the last two years. Employers should think carefully about how to support their employees’ mental health as we adjust to the new working world.”

In terms of vaccines, one in five employers have encouraged employees to get vaccinated through communications campaigns, with another 18 per cent considering this approach. However, most employers have not gone so far as to incentivise people to get vaccinated. One in seven are giving people time off or cash as a thank you for getting vaccinated, but they seem likely to remain in the minority. The majority of employers (60 per cent) are not planning to use incentives.

None of the organisations surveyed currently ask their employees to get vaccinated in order to return to the workplace. Two in three companies have no intention of doing so. A mere 12 per cent are considering requiring employees to get vaccinated before they can return to the workplace.

Businesses are also unsure when they will drop social distancing and safety protocols at work. Understandably, two in three employers are still uncertain of their plans in this respect.

McGrath concluded:

“Uncertainty in this unprecedented time is very normal. However, while uncertainty is unavoidable as businesses take tentative steps back towards the workplace, it can also feel unsettling for employees. People who have worked from home for the last two years may find it tiring to spend more time in their workplaces.

“Equally, there are lots of upsides. The new hybrid world could give employees the chance to have the best of both worlds. They can tackle projects which require deep focus at home and come into the workplace to collaborate and create, achieving a better work/life balance in the process. As ever, the key to success will be in getting the details right. We expect this to be an iterative process for employers, and it will be important to listen to employees throughout.”

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