Three years on from the start of lockdown and hybrid working may be the legacy of Covid, but now that businesses are fully open again, is a blended approach to the working week losing favour or is it here to stay?
Recent data collected from the Office for National Statistics would suggest that hybrid working is still going strong, with 44% of people currently working remotely for some or all of the week. A further global survey also found that the average time the UK labour force works from home is now two days.
In addition, research carried out by Creative Recruitment since the start of 2023 revealed that a massive 83% of staff are ‘unlikely’ or ‘highly unlikely’ to accept a job offer from firms seeking to mandate four or five days a week in the office. Candidates request flexible working was one of their top three concerns when joining a new company.
So, rather than being in decline, Hybrid working could now be more critical than ever to many people and is often even a determining factor when making career choices.
Why is Hybrid more popular than fully remote?
Many individuals prefer a hybrid working pattern to a fully remote one. Hybrid workers can enjoy the advantages of working from home, such as gaining free time when they would otherwise be travelling, while also benefiting from being in the office, where these same employees can build rapport with their teams and foster better relationships with clients.
This can be especially true when staff are more junior or recently onboarded. These employees are likely to seek opportunities to build relationships with co-workers and quickly develop their knowledge of a new company, which can often be achieved more effectively in person.
Many workers also find that working from home full time means they miss the ‘water cooler’ conversations where a helpful discussion can take place ad-hoc without booking a 45-minute video call, so again, this is encouraging people back into the office when others are there.
This is all also good news for employers as having staff on-site helps to define and retain company culture and ethos, which is far more difficult with a fully remote workforce. At the same time, evidence also shows that Hybrid workers are generally more productive and less likely to quit as they have greater job satisfaction and are less likely to suffer burnout. Some employees are willing to trade off wage increases to gain better work/life balance and improved mental health through flexible work patterns.
Another advantage of the hybrid model is that it helps tackle some of the trickiest D,E&I issues facing businesses today. Allowing staff the flexibility which Hybrid work offers could improve working conditions for over 50s, those experiencing symptoms of menopause and those requiring parental leave. This benefits both the individuals who fall into these demographic groups by offering them the time and space they need to have a manageable work/life balance and helps employers, who can benefit from staff in these groups potentially not needing to take as much time off sick or as annual leave at short notice, while also assisting companies in achieving their equity and inclusion goals.
The mid-week magnet
Not only is hybrid work still the popular choice, but the noticeable advantages of being on-site simultaneously as others also are creating a natural trend for people to work the same mid-week days.
Many businesses are finding that staff are opting to come to the office for two or three days between Tuesday and Thursday, which can be great for workers who may feel like they have an extended weekend without travel time or the need to dress for the office on a Monday and Friday.
However, for businesses that may have reduced their office space to account for hybrid working, this can cause issues if everyone is in the office on the same days and almost no staff are in attendance on other days. It is now being seen to such a great extent that some companies seek to incentivise staff to utilise the office at either end of the week to relieve the pressure of mid-week meeting room bookings and over-occupied spaces on some days experiencing a lack of atmosphere and lower morale on others. Big four firm KPMG for instance, now offer subsidised lunch on Monday & Friday to encourage employees to spread their attendance more evenly over the week.
Of course, there is another option which firms may want to consider. With continuing global inflation pushing up overheads such as office rental costs and energy prices and the growing trend to introduce a 4-day week, business leaders may want to consider whether they open their facilities on a Friday.
With staff voicing their preference to be on-site mid-week, organisations could cut their losses and look to make cost savings by keeping the office closed on a Friday instead, meaning they could save budget on expenses, energy bills, reception staff, catering, caretaking and more. It could be that some companies choose to go fully remote at the end of the week or even adopt the 4-day working model and abandon working Fridays completely.
It would appear that organisations who want to attract and retain the best candidates for any given role will need to continue to offer hybrid working as an option, and with improved retention rates, better candidate attraction, more productive staff, and even support for D,E&I, it is easy to see why many companies are equally happy to be sticking with the hybrid model.
So far from being on the decline, all the evidence suggests that hybrid working is not just here to stay, but moreover, it has now become a part of everyday working life and may be the only way that many people work for a long time to come.