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We must all have experienced the worsening cost-of-living crisis first hand by now. But there is also a labor cost crisis, according to new research, as employers insist that employees return to the office.

In his Digital Etiquette: Reinventing the Work Reportdigital transformation specialist Adaptavist surveyed nearly 3,500 professionals from the US, UK, Australia and Canada on their views on hybrid vs. office work, productivity, collaboration and isolation, communication tools, health and wellbeing, and the future of work.

Adaptavist found that for the more than 1,200 UK workers surveyed, inflation and the shocking cost of living have created a new “labor cost crisis” that is affecting not just where they work, but how.

Although the cost of working from home is increasing due to stomach-churning energy bills, 44 per cent of UK respondents said they are worried about the added cost of working in an office when they return full-time.

Of the 38 percent who said they were afraid of going back to the office, 35 percent said the fear stemmed from the commute. Everyone has felt the pang of stupidity driving to work to afford the commute and according to the Office of National Statistics the annual increase in UK traffic was 15.1 per cent in July 2022.

As a result, 29 percent say they would like to see commuting reimbursement and free parking as the carrot that would get them back into the office full-time.

“The transformation of work over the past few years has been long-lasting but will continue to evolve,” said John Turley, head of organizational transformation at Adaptavist.

“Just as employees have grown accustomed to questioning the level of flexibility and freedom their organization offers, they are now, understandably, considering the costs associated with returning to the office, working from home or a combination of both are connected.

“Whether those costs are mental, emotional or financial, workers and employers need to find a new balance between business as usual and the way people want to work now – one that supports well-being while also adding value to customers creates.”

Meanwhile, the flexibility of working from home has allowed respondents to supplement their income through freelance work or extra hours as the recession looms, opportunities they believe a mandatory office schedule will rob. About 28 percent plan to take on additional work, and 16 percent have already done so, with 51 percent reporting higher earnings of £6,000 to £12,000 a year (about $6,800 to $13,600). It’s clear why some don’t want to lose this.

The downside of these ventures is that they can cause burnout. According to Adaptavist, 31 percent of UK employees are so overwhelmed with work that they don’t have time to talk to colleagues, while 89 percent think face-to-face communication with colleagues is critical or important. This could contribute to loneliness or isolation, although more than half of professionals have not accessed their employer’s mental health resources.

Psychotherapist Petra Velzeboer commented: “Often we find that resources for mental health and well-being exist in organizations but communication about them is poor and awareness is low.

“An effective employee assistance program and communications strategy are essential to ensure organizations and employees have the right tools in place, but it’s only half the story. We must proactively combat loneliness by creating a culture of connection, with mental health and well-being at the forefront. Businesses need to prioritize mental health before people start struggling, not after.”

The big restart

For better or worse, with 43 percent of respondents in mixed or remote positions, that flexibility could run out as employers start mandating a return to the office. Whether driven by recession, a need for control or to increase productivity, almost three quarters of UK workers said going back to the office would wipe out all, some and most important of their freedoms at work.

This has prompted more than a third to look elsewhere for a new job. However, 66 percent of those who quit as part of the pandemic-related “Great Resignation” said they either regret the decision or sometimes regret it – so proceed with caution.

Among the tech companies that are driving workers back to headquarters are BT, Appleand Googlewho have all mandated a ‘3 together, 2 wherever’ model (as BT put it) – three days in one office and two remote.

On the other hand, red hat has no qualms about employees working remotely for the foreseeable future, Amazon has said no hard return to office planned, Dell imagined that 60 percent of the employees stayed away after the pandemic, and Foreclosure believes that “office appointments will never work.”

At the more unsettling end working day CEO Aneel Bhusri famously said: “Perhaps five days is too much family time. A day or two is a good amount,” as he explained why the staff had to come back.

Time for a four-day week?

Adaptavist also asked professionals for their views on the future of employment. While 63 percent said they were working the same hours as before the pandemic, more than 62 percent would like to end the 40-hour week, with 49 percent aiming for a four-day work schedule.

Almost a quarter of those surveyed state that their employer already offers four days. This follows a huge British Schedule Cleanup Pilot for 3,000 workers in dozens of companies between June and December.

In the Halftime of this pilot, 88 percent of companies surveyed said the four-day workweek works well for their business; 46 percent said business productivity remained the same; and 86 percent said they were “very likely” to stick with the four-day-week policy.

tool fatigue

The survey also looked at communication and productivity tools, with Brits often suffering from ‘tool fatigue’. This was felt most noticeably by asynchronous workers—those on a team that doesn’t require all members to be online at the same time—whose tool fatigue rates were double those of synchronous workers.

Just over half of employees said they lose time switching tasks, and 41 percent complained that their organization had too many tools doing the same thing.

Email remains the most common communication method for work at 31 percent, followed by face-to-face (17 percent) and collaboration tools like Slack as the primary communication method (12 percent). However, asynchronous organizations in larger organizations with more than 250 employees were more likely to use such tools, with Microsoft Teams (75 percent) and Zoom (53 percent) seen as essential for collaboration. ®

https://www.theregister.com/2022/09/22/cost_of_working/ cost of living? Prepare for the labor cost crisis • The Register

cost of living? Prepare for the labor cost crisis • The Register – World Time Todays

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