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What are the positives and negatives of Hybrid Working?

As a result of the pandemic, many businesses have chosen to adopt a hybrid working model, allowing their staff to split their time between the workplace and home.   A new report published this month reveals the positives and negatives of hybrid working from the perspective of “hybrid workers” and provides some interesting insight.

The report, entitled the “Evolution of the Workplace Report”, was produced by Poly who surveyed over 7,000 hybrid workers across the UK, Europe and the UAE.  The survey asked for views on the experience of remote working and its impact on issues such as career development and progression. 

Some of the key findings were as follows:

  • Nearly 70% of office workers surveyed said that their 9 – 5 working hours had been replaced by “anytime working”.  Not to be confused with “always working”, workers reported working more in the evenings to allow for more flexibility in the day to accommodate other commitments.  Having more autonomy over their time was seen as a major benefit by many workers.
  • The top three benefits of hybrid home working were listed as avoiding lengthy commutes, achieving a work‐life balance, and feeling less stressed.   Saving money on commuting came a close fourth. 
  • 82% of people reported that they intended to spend at least one day a week working from home in the future and 54% said they planned to split their time between office and home in the future. 
  • The major drawbacks of working from home included: lack of banter with colleagues, being expected to work outside normal working hours, having difficulty collaborating, lack of IT support and lack of equipment to enable home working. 
  • 58% of those surveyed said that working from home meant they were always available.  As a result, they worked longer hours and found it harder to relax and switch off from work.
  • Many remote workers were concerned about the impact that working from home would have on their career progression.   43% were worried it would have an impact on their development and career progression and nearly half reported that they felt they would miss out on learning from their peers. 
  • 52% of workers thought that hybrid or home workers could be discriminated against or treated differently to employees working full time in the office.  Further to this, the report suggested that as women were more likely to choose to work from home long‐term to accommodate for family, this could put them at a disadvantage to their male peers as they will get less ‘face time” with their managers.   
  • When asked about reverting back to office working, the second biggest concern workers reported (with commuting being the first) was of noise levels because they had become used to the peace and quiet of working from their home offices.    (That said, 34% said they were looking forward to returning to the office because it was too noisy to work from home!)  Working from home, the research suggested, had reduced tolerance levels and returning to a noisy office environment could not only affect productivity and focus but also become a point of friction between employees. 
  •  42% said they worried they would be prone to “noise rage” if their colleagues were too loud (eek!)

What relevance does this have for my business?

Whilst it can be tempting to liken the findings of reports like this to a particularly boring “Family Fortunes” survey, I believe there are some valuable insights to be gained.  

It is, perhaps, unsurprising that the report reveals that most hybrid workers prefer working from the home and the office and find they have a better work/life balance that way.   However, what is interesting are the views collated about the effect of hybrid working on career progression and equality at work and also the concerns expressed about returning to work full time in an office environment.  This is useful information both for employers who are keen to make the hybrid working model a permanent feature in their business but also for employers who are looking to return their staff back to the workplace.  

The report contains some suggestions for how employers can address these actual or perceived problems:

  1. Consider ways in which you can replicate office culture for remote workers – get to know the different personalities in your team so that you can create the most engaging environment for them.
  1. Find ways to ensure that employees working from home can still learn from their peers to help ensure career progression is protected and avoid discrimination and exclusion.
  1. Provide staff with the proper equipment and IT support to remove any physical barriers to collaborative working and to try and provide an equal experience for those in and out of the office. 

For businesses returning staff to the workplace, the report recommends:

  1. Considering how to incentivise employees to return to the office, understanding that employees have had a different experience over the past year, including more autonomy. 
  1. Providing employees with the right equipment to drown out any unwanted sounds e.g. noise cancelling headsets to reduce distractions when on calls and creating, where possible, dedicated quiet spaces (booths, more rooms, spacing out desks).
  1. Providing workers with clear back to work guidelines to help reduce friction among staff.       

How can Real Employment Law Advice help?

Whether you are considering implementing hybrid working permanently in your organisation or looking at returning your staff to the office, we can help advise you on the best way to achieve the optimum outcome for your business and your staff.

We have created a free Hybrid Working checklist for you to download and use when considering or implementing Hybrid Working you can download: HERE

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The information contained in this blog post is provided for guidance and is a snapshot of the law at the time it is written. It is provided for your information only and should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice that it specific to your particular circumstances.

The guidance should not be relied upon in any decision making process. It is strongly recommended that you seek advice before taking action.

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