Businesses weigh future of remote work as UK WFH guidance nears end

Woman using laptop while sitting at home.
Research has revealed many organisations have been poorly equipped to enable remote working and training throughout the past year. Photo: Getty

British businesses have been weighing the future of remote work as the UK government is poised to scrap its official work from home (WFH) guidance later this month.

As the economy looks to fully reopen on 21 June, prime minister Boris Johnson has said he intends to the guidance in the coming weeks, meaning Britons should no longer be advised to WFH after that date.

While employees have proven they can keep up with job demands while working remotely, and businesses have shown they can function, some firms are divided over the future of long-term remote work.

"As lockdowns are lifted and vaccination rates continue to climb, naturally this has sparked some spirited debate about the future of remote work," said Nikolas Kairinos, CEO and founder of Soffos. "For many firms, the pandemic has been a game-changer – changes have been introduced not only to ensure business continuity, but to allow employees to be more productive and fulfilled in their roles."

Research has revealed many organisations have been poorly equipped to enable remote working and training throughout the past year.

While the use of technologies including Zoom (ZM), Teams and Slack (WORK) have risen during the pandemic, new data shared exclusively with Yahoo Finance UK, shows 36% of organisations have experienced communication breakdowns while WFH.

Companies in the architecture, engineering building sectors predominately experienced communication issues, with 44% admitted breakdowns.

Of the 750 business leaders surveyed by, 39% admitted they have struggled to make time for training and 38% noticed poorer collaboration within their organisation.

A third (33%) say they lack the tools and knowledge to effectively support remote employees, according to the study by the AI-powered learning platform. This rose to 41% in the banking sector.

Vital sectors across the UK economy said the pandemic widened skills gap/shortages in their business, including banking (62%), healthcare (58%), legal (53%), sales, media and marketing (52%), IT & telecoms (48%) and retail, catering and leisure (44%).

Read more: How COVID changed the UK's hospitality sector

Looking ahead Soffos found that 50% of businesses intend to prioritise digital training over in-person training in the coming 12 months.

"In truth, hybrid working is likely to remain in place long after the pandemic has passed. With the right infrastructure in place, businesses will reap the benefits of remote working," Kairinos added.

"To ensure the shift is successful, organisations will therefore require greater investment in digital infrastructure, as well as key technologies to support their workers’ learning and professional development."

Meanwhile, many businesses plan to invest more heavily in tech to allow them to better support their employees.

The majority (52%) plan to invest in data analytics to understand the strengths, weaknesses and particular needs of their workforce, and 43% will invest in artificial intelligence to deliver more advanced training initiatives.

COVID has forever changed the way many industries operate, as many venues were forced to come up with alternative ways to do business as restrictions and social distancing were enforced.

It comes after a separate study from card payments firm Dojo, revealed that as a result of COVID, 95% of UK hospitality venues are looking to implement technology into their businesses.

Catalysed by the events of the last 12 months, hospitality technology has gone from a niche product, to an absolute necessity.

The crisis has propelled contactless payment and orders. From mobile apps to web ordering, 43% of customers have been using some form of order and pay technology since July 2020.

Watch: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?