New research has found that 71% of UK SMEs aim to offer indefinite remote working to their employees.
In its survey of 500 small and medium enterprises across the UK and US, software developer JumpCloud found over half (53.2%) of UK respondents are currently rethinking returning to the office.
In addition, 14.8% said that they have already delayed bringing workers back into the office.
With case numbers still high across the UK, uncertainties about the future of the coronavirus, especially when facing renewed threat from the Delta variant, 37.8% of UK respondents said they don’t have a firm timeline for their return.
Of those with set timelines, 32.4% aim to return in September; 10.8% in October; and 18.9% are delaying until November or later.
According to the 2021 Impact of Covid-19 on SMEs study, companies looking to return to office have also introduced safety measures.
The research found 61.7% will requiring social distancing in the workplace; 60.2% will limit the number of people in the workspace at one time; 47.4% will require masks or PPE; while 48.9% will upgrade their air filters or HVAC equipment; and 45.1% will add physical dividers to the workplace.
For the most part, the research found that most companies have their employees’ support over their anti-Covid measures.
77% of respondents said they agreed with their company’s decision whether or not to go back into the office. This broke down to 41.2% agreeing that there is no reason to delay in-office work because of Covid-19, and 35.6% agreeing because they were working from home.
Of the 23% that did not agree, 10% reported they disagreed because there is “nothing to worry about,” and 13% said they disagreed because they felt things are being rushed.
“SMEs continue to exhibit great resourcefulness, flexibility, and initiative in responding to the pandemic and the Delta variant,” said JumpCloud CEO Rajat Bhargava.
“As an SME ourselves, we know the current conditions are extremely fluid, and like the majority of respondents, we had to rethink and delay our office return and hybrid workplace options.
“While SMEs grapple with how and where employees will work, we are rapidly expanding functionality delivered through the JumpCloud platform with new security like our recently announced one-touch push multi-factor authentication, that makes it easier and more cost-effective for small IT teams to adopt advanced security policies.”
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The future of remote working is still very much up for debate. While many companies were quick to promise that workers could continue working from home as society adapts to the coronavirus, there has also been backtracking.
However, the Delta variant has forced many companies to delay making a final decision on whether they will return their employees to the office, embrace remote working, or move to a hybrid model.
Furthermore, concerns about the long-term effectiveness of vaccines could hamper plans to move people back into the office in the long term.
While controversial, the research found that the majority of companies (56.7%) are taking steps to mandate vaccinations for employees.
The research found that London-based companies have proven more active in mandating vaccines – 72.8% of companies in Greater London compared to only 44.9% in the rest of the UK.