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Jamie Lawrence


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Research: concerns over trust in flexible working highest among HR professionals


Almost half of HR professionals (46 percent) responding to a new study said that a lack of trust over productivity was the biggest barrier to flexible working, compared to an average of 28 percent and 19 percent in the legal profession.

HR respondents were also divided on whether they make more of a conscious effort to remain contactable when away from the office, with 50 percent on both sides. Seventy-five percent of wholesale/export professionals said they did make more of an effort.

Just eight percent of HR professionals are unlikely to forget about the office when working from home – the lowest across the board. This rose to 10 percent for manufacturing professionals and leapt to 31 and 40 percent for media/PR and retail respectively.

The research, commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by Ipsos Mori, looked at trust and flexible working in the workplace.

Out of the 1000 respondents questioned, 70 percent said they don’t feel guilty about working away from the office. Just over a quarter (26 percent) reported facing questions from colleagues about why they aren’t in the office.
Interestingly, 37 percent of CEOs and MDs said a lack of trust over productivity was the biggest barrier to flexible working, compared to 16 percent – less than half – of senior managers.

Trust is not only a barrier to flexible working but an on-going problem: 36 percent of respondents said that colleagues are mistrustful of each other when someone isn’t in the office. HR came in at 46 percent, behind catering and hospitality (58 percent), retail (47 percent), wholesale/import (50 percent) and military/police (57 percent).
Forty-two percent of HR respondents were in companies of 500 employees or more.

Gender statistics

Of the 1000 respondents, 506 were female and 494 were male.

  • CEOs/MDs: 63 percent male, 37 percent female
  • Directors/Senior Managers: 63 percent male, 37 percent female
  • Middle managers: 61 percent male, 39 percent female
  • Junior managers: 53 percent female, 47 percent male
  • Executive/Officer: 60 percent female, 40 percent male
  • Clerical/administration: 75 percent female, 25 percent male

In the HR sector, 67 percent of respondents were female and 33 percent were male.

Positions of HR respondents

  • CEO/MD: eight percent
  • Senior Directors: four percent
  • Middle Managers: 29 percent
  • Professionals: 21 percent
  • Junior Managers/Supervisors: 17 percent

Ages of HR respondents

  • 18:34: 29 percent
  • 35-44: 33 percent
  • 45-54: 21 percent
  • 55-65: 17 percent

Geographic locations of HR respondents

  • North-west: 17 percent
  • West Midlands: 17 percent
  • South-east: 17 percent
  • Yorkshire and Humberside: eight percent
  • Wales: eight percent
  • Greater London: eight percent
  • East Anglia: eight percent
  • East Midlands: eight percent
  • South-west: four percent
  • Scotland: four percent

2 Responses

  1. Trust issues

    "We trust people or we don’t."

    Completely agree. This is a trust issue rather than a ‘trust with regard to remote working’ issue. As you say, finding behaviours that promote communication and honesty from both sides is the key to trust. Once the trust is there, it doesn’t matter if you’re working in the office, from your home or anywhere else for that matter. Not to mention, trust offers benefits for engagement too, plus makes people willing to offer their real opinions, which is obviously key to long-term success. HR can win many times over by making trust development a priority.



  2. Is trust situational?

     I was really interested and not particularly surprised to read some of these statistics.  I realise that they are focused on flexible working, but it seems to me that we either trust people or we don’t, regardless of where they are working.  On our programmes we regularly experience challenges around whether managers feel people are trustworthy – because everyone can think of an instance when someone has let them down of course.  However, by developing behaviours that demonstrate trust, they frequently begin to realise that trustworthiness is a two-way street.  Of course, this is not about being niaive but recognising the correlation between our beliefs and the behaviours they drive in ourselves and others.

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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence