Aon plc (NYSE: AON), a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions, has released the results of a new global human resources (HR) pulse survey, which shows the steps UK companies are taking to bring the future of work to life.

Aon conducted its pulse survey from April 20-28, 2021, with a total of 400 human resources leaders and professionals responding within the UK and 1,451 responding globally. Complete study results, across multiple geographies and industries, are available here.

“The disruptions of the past 18 months accelerated workplace transformation like nothing else in recent memory,” said Michel Burke, chief executive officer for Aon’s human capital business. “This dynamic presents leaders with an incredible opportunity to align their business and people strategies to drive growth and optimise investments, and our survey highlights the areas where firms are focusing first.”

UK companies expect remote workers to return soon, but not everyone and not every day

Most UK organisations (77%) already have expected return dates in mind for workers who left office settings as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the largest share of companies (49%) expecting remote workers to return in Q3 2021.

However, companies do not expect everyone to return to the office. Over half of surveyed organisations (51%) expect fewer than 75% of office workers to return onsite once the pandemic is over.

Additionally, flexible or hybrid working options are on the rise, with 40% of companies expecting returning workers to spend only two to three days per week in the office, and another 18% of companies opting to give employees a choice in terms of how much time they spend in the office.

For 70% of UK organisations, government-provided statistics are influencing the return to the office; employee preferences are also motivating 67% of organisations. Meanwhile, the number of vaccinated employees is influencing less than a third of organisations (31%) and only 4% are influenced by the number of employees with antibodies.

Supporting vaccine adoption through incentives

As workers head back onsite, companies are taking a proactive and supportive approach to vaccine adoption; however, they are largely stopping short of mandates. In the UK, only 4% of surveyed organisations currently plan to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for employees, with another 7% of organisations actively considering this approach.

Meanwhile, nearly a third of UK organisations (32%) are offering incentives to employees who receive COVID-19 vaccines. In the UK, the most common form of incentive is paid time off to receive the vaccine, which is being offered by 87% of organisations. Nearly half of companies (46%) are actively educating employees on the benefits of getting vaccinated, while 5% are offering monetary incentives to take the vaccine.

However, despite vaccine incentives becoming increasingly common, just over half (52%) of employers are tracking which employees contract COVID-19 while 30% are not.

Future-of-work strategies and inclusion and diversity efforts are tightly linked

Focused on the future, more than three in four surveyed UK companies (76%) have one or more teams or taskforces defining, managing and implementing the future of work. In addition, 85% of organisations say they now have a clear and consistent definition for what the future of work means for their business or expect to have a definition in the next six months.

The three most prevalent issues shaping future-of-work definitions are rethinking company cultures, addressing talent availability concerns and boosting inclusion and diversity, cited by 99%, 98% and 95% of companies, respectively.

Looking more closely at inclusion and diversity efforts, 76% of surveyed companies state HR teams are most responsible for setting strategy and leading programmes in this area. Additionally, 84% of firms have created or are planning to create inclusion and diversity metrics or goals to track progress.

Efforts to rethink location-based compensation continue

With remote work on the rise, 38% of surveyed UK organisations have adjusted, or are considering adjusting, geographic pay differentials as a result of the pandemic. Among companies actively adjusting pay based on shifting employee locations, 46% are re-examining pay rates using fresh market data while 45% are considering doing so. Twenty-eight percent of employers are also currently adding more granularity to the geographic zones they consider.

However, making adjustments of this nature isn’t without challenges. When adopting, changing or modifying geographic differentials, 66% agree that a lack of market data is an issue, 66% state that manager training is challenging and 68% feel that internal communications can be a problem.

For complete study results, across multiple geographies and industries, click here.