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No return to normal work announced for 93% of engineering employees

Joseph Flaig

87% of surveyed engineering employees are working from home (Credit: Shutterstock)
87% of surveyed engineering employees are working from home (Credit: Shutterstock)

There is no end in sight for coronavirus disruption, with fewer than 10% of engineering employees knowing when normal work will resume.

A new survey, carried out by Professional Engineering, shows 92.8% of respondents have not been given a timeframe for a return to normal by their company.

Of the 240 respondents, 87% are working from home. 15.5% of the IMechE members and Professional Engineering newsletter readers say colleagues have been furloughed despite their team working from home.

Although only 7.2% know when normal work will resume, roughly a third (30.5%) expect to work from home for nine to 12 weeks, while a similar number (29.2%) expect it to last for five to eight weeks. 7.3% expect just two to four weeks, so would be returning to work very soon. 10.3% expect longer than three months.

The pandemic took the world by surprise, but some firms were more prepared than others. 16.8% of respondents say their company was ‘not prepared at all’ for the coronavirus, compared to a quarter (24.8%) saying it was ‘very’ prepared, 40.8% ‘somewhat’ prepared, and 17.7% ‘a little’.

Thankfully, readers say their companies will now be better prepared for similar situations in future – more than half believe their company will be ‘very’ prepared, with only two expecting zero preparation for a repeat.

Although few engineers know when normal work will resume, it is very difficult for companies to make decisions without government guidance on the end of the lockdown, says IMechE head of engineering Dr Jenifer Baxter.

“In terms of making decisions about when offices, manufacturing and construction sites can open again, they are to some extent dependent on when the government starts to stagger the end of the lockdown,” says Dr Baxter to Professional Engineering. “There will be some continuation of social distancing and challenges around some aspects of work, so for companies to give accurate answers to their employees is very difficult.”

She adds: “For a lot of engineers, they are continuing to work. There are design and office-based engineers who are working from home, but we do have lots of engineers keeping our critical infrastructure running. Their shifts or patterns of work might have changed, but when these companies do return to normal work it will be slightly easier than for office-based companies.”

Efficiency is negatively affected at home for most people, if only to a small degree. 38.6% report ‘very little’ effect, while 32.6% said home working has ‘somewhat’ negatively affected efficiency. Worryingly, 10.7% say it has ‘to a great extent’, but 18% say ‘not at all’.

A third of respondents said their ability to perform technical engineering tasks is ‘somewhat’ affected by working from home, compared to 9% ‘greatly’ affected, 39% ‘very little’ and 18.5% ‘not at all’. Internet speeds are an issue for 30.4% of respondents.

 “Although it is challenging that people don’t know when they are going to be working normally, I think as engineers we are quite well-equipped to be flexible and adjust to these circumstances,” says Dr Baxter.

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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. 


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