Two-thirds of employers do not trust their staff when it comes to working remotely, according to new research. The survey by Ricoh Europe, which polled 1,500 business decision makers across Europe, found that 65 per cent did not fully trust their staff to do their jobs from home. Additionally, nearly two-fifths (39 per cent) said they believed their staff do not work as hard or effectively at home.This was despite just one in five (19 per cent) reporting a decrease in productivity since moving to remote working.

"The challenge for business leaders is to remain mindful that remote and hybrid working are two different things,” said David Mills, CEO of Ricoh Europe. “It stands to reason that less commuting, a greater sense of flexibility, and having the trust of your manager are significant contributing factors to a more empowered and inspired workforce.”

This, Mills added, put the onus on leaders to make their hybrid work model as successful as possible.

Despite the lack of confidence in home working, almost three in five (57 per cent) of leaders polled believed investing in flexible working technology was essential to attracting and retaining talent.

And more than two in five (42 per cent) respondents reported their teams’ biggest concerns about returning to the workplace were around health and safety, the report highlighted

Responding to the figures, Claire McCartney, senior resourcing and inclusion adviser at the CIPD, said: “It's disappointing that after 18 months of home working for many, this research suggests that some employers still have misconceptions about it.

"These findings, like previous CIPD data, clearly show that workers are just as productive when working from home, so organisations need to dispel any doubts around this.”

McCartney added that trust is a “cornerstone of home working” and without it, it would not work.

“If remote workers feel like their managers don't trust them, it can put a strain on the working relationship,” she said. "It's important that managers are trained in how to manage remote workers, particularly when it comes to managing performance, which should be based on clear objectives and outputs."

Gemma Dale, lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University, said while the results were disappointing, it was entirely expected.

“Before the pandemic, trust was a big issue when it came to flexible working acceptance. Despite the evidence of the last 18 months, it appears that many managers still do not trust that people will work without direct supervision.

“Ultimately this is how people want to work, so this will be good for their motivation and engagement. It can also be good for their wellbeing and work life balance,” Dale explained, adding that organisations will start with “good intentions” but it is likely employees will slowly end up working full time back in the office.

Nicola Downing, COO at Ricoh Europe, added that while there were undoubtedly some tasks that benefitted from having everyone in the same room, it was essential employers “recognise the evolving requirements of their talent pool” and arm them with the tools to help increase collaboration, productivity, and enjoyment of work.

This article was first published in People Management on 25 August 2021.

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