In response to the Prime Minister’s comments urging a return to workplaces Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said: 

“Being in the office is no guarantee of productivity. To build back better we need a more flexible approach to work. Employers need to embrace new ways of working that help employees perform at their best. It’s not a case of home or office working, as most people want a combination of both, where this is possible.

“It’s in organisations’ interests to provide more flexible ways of working as it can support their ability to attract and retain a more diverse workforce at a time when many firms are facing skill and labour shortages. Just as importantly, evidence suggests flexible working practices can support the motivation, wellbeing and productivity of workers.

“Being flexible isn’t just about where people work but when and how. We also need employers to provide more flexible hours working arrangements so many more people who can’t work from home can also benefit from more flexibility.” 

“Organisations must also consider the health and wellbeing of staff as people return to workplaces while Covid cases remain high, through consultation and taking steps to manage risks. 

On the need to shift to a high-wage, high-skill economy, Willmott adds: 

“The Prime Minister is absolutely right that the UK needs to move to a high-wage high-skill economy. However, the Government’s Plan for Growth requires significant development and changes to policy and investment to meet this ambition.

“Investments in R&D, high-tech industries and major infrastructure and efforts to try and boost the supply of skills to the economy are crucial but are not sufficient in themselves to address regional economic inequalities or create more higher paid, better-quality jobs across the nation. After all, these have broadly been the same ingredients successive governments have relied on to transform the UK economy without success.

“There needs to be an economy-wide, joined up strategy to boost firm-level productivity. Government must take steps to encourage and enable many more businesses to invest in the people management capability, skills development and technology required to create more high-paid, high-skilled jobs across all regions and sectors.”

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At the CIPD, we champion better work and working lives. We help organisations to thrive by focusing on their people, supporting economies and society for the future. We lead debate as the voice for everyone wanting a better world of work.