CIPD: A third of UK employees say remote access to work means they can’t switch off

Almost a third of UK workers (32%) feel that having remote access to the workplace means they can’t switch off in their personal time, according to the latest CIPD/Halogen Employee Outlook report.

The survey of over 2,000 UK employees found that workers are divided on whether remote access to the workplace is a positive or negative development. Two-fifths of UK workers (40%) admit to actively checking their work mobile or emails at least five times a day outside of working hours. Nearly a fifth (18%) feel as though they are under surveillance with remote access to work, and 17% say it makes them feel anxious or even impacts their quality of sleep.

However, almost a third (30%) of employees say they feel empowered by having remote access to the workplace, showing a divide in opinion. Indeed, more than half of employees (53%) say it helps them to work flexibly and more than a third (37%) say it makes them more productive.

Claire McCartney, Associate Research Adviser at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, comments:

“Flexible working has an important role to play in modern workplaces, and remote access to work can open up the jobs market to those who may not have been able to access it before. With the UK’s decision to leave the EU causing further uncertainty around access to skills, it’s more important than ever that employers make use of all the talent available to them by ensuring that their workplaces are inclusive, flexible and agile.


“However, a lack of clarity and guidance for employees around remote working can cultivate an environment where some employees feel unable to physically or mentally switch off. This can have adverse effects on employee well-being and their engagement with the organisation, as well as their productivity at work. Employers therefore need to have a clear approach to remote working as well as create a wider enabling culture, where employees feel trusted and empowered to take ownership of their work, but also able to speak out if they are struggling. HR plays a critical role in creating and influencing these cultures of trust, by engaging with employees and challenging some of the problem areas that exist.”

The survey found that private sector employees are more likely to say that they can always switch off from work (47%), compared to those in the public (35%) and voluntary sectors (29%). Those in the public sector are also almost twice as likely to check their work mobile or emails at least 5 times a day outside of working hours (32%), than those in the voluntary (17%) and private sectors (23%).

Dominique Jones, Chief People Officer at Halogen Software, said:

“Technology makes it easier than ever to connect people and teams in an organisation, whether they’re in the physical workplace or not, so each individual understands how their work is contributing towards the goals that matter to them and the organisation.


“Organisations should focus on providing employees with the tools and resources to access what they need, when they need it, to improve their performance. Those that enable progress on goals, and feedback and development, will be better positioned to help people perform at their best and help move the business forward.”

Flexible working commentator Adrian Lewis believes that software should be used to encourage a better work/life balance:

“Some of our staff work from home, but that doesn’t mean they should be available 24/7.  Our software, Activ Absence, helps us see when home-working staff are on holiday or not scheduled to work, so other staff know not to contact them.


“We also encourage staff to respect lunch breaks for staff in the office and don’t expect our employees to be interrupted with phone calls if they are on a break.  People perform at their best when they take all their annual leave and their rest breaks – the working time regulations exist for a reason and more employers need to encourage staff to have a good home/work balance.  Overwork just increases sickness absence and poor productivity in the long run.”

Further highlights of the survey, which explores attitudes towards a range of workplace issues, include:

Impact of wider political changes

  • A third of employees (33%) believe their organisation has been impacted by the wider political changes in the UK and the US after the vote to leave the EU
  • Around a fifth believe that the vote to leave the EU has led to a decrease in morale among colleagues (20%) and an increase in stress (17%)
  • 1 in 10 (10%) have experienced, witnessed or heard about incidences of racist harassment or bullying at work following the UK’s vote to leave the EU


Job satisfaction

  • Net job satisfaction has increased in this survey once again, with 64% of employees satisfied with their jobs (16% dissatisfied). Job satisfaction continues to rise in the public sector, now at its highest levels since Autumn 2012
  • Almost a quarter (24%) disagree or strongly disagree that their organisation provides them with opportunities to learn and grow
  • Just over half (52%) of employees would be likely or very likely to recommend their organisation as an employer, while just over a fifth (22%) would be unlikely or very unlikely to do this



  • Around a third (30%) of employees believe that they are over-qualified
  • Less than a quarter (24%) of those that believe they are over-qualified for their roles are satisfied with their jobs
  • Employees that are over-qualified are also more likely to say that they think all or some parts of their jobs will be automated in the future (than those with the right level of qualification)



  • Almost a quarter of employees (23%) are worried that parts (18%) or all of their jobs (5%) will be automated in the future
  • While just 8% of those that are worried about their roles and automation think this will happen in the next 12 months, the largest proportion of respondents (49%) think this will happen in five years’ time


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