Are UK companies still committing to hybrid working models?

In its latest survey, XpertHR, the online HR resource, reveals that despite 75% of organisations saying they have some employees who are reluctant to return to the office, almost all (97%) organisations are implementing or planning on implementing hybrid working.

Almost a third (32%) of workers will be spending the majority of their work time in the office.

The hesitancy amongst employees was largely due to personal preference to remain remote, concern about COVID-19 cases in the local community, and wanting to avoid public transport. But, over a quarter (26%) of organisations noted the reason for reluctancy was due to concerns about vaccination status amongst colleagues/local population.

The research follows much discussed debates on the ‘return to the office’, with the UK Government setting deadlines and considering pay cuts for those who refuse to return while companies such as Apple have ploughed ahead with plans for a strong return to office based working. However, in the face of employer calls for an office-based future of work, employees are demanding a different approach. According to Cendex, part of XpertHR, candidates are placing flexible working as the top priority in the recruitment process, above pay.

Despite reluctance from some employees to return to the workplace, 29% of UK organisations surveyed are implementing hybrid working for all employees, whilst 32% are implementing hybrid working for some employees and enforcing office-based working for the remainder. Only 4% are not implementing hybrid working at all. But businesses have made some concessions to employee preferences with the most common split between in office and remote working expected to be three days at home and two in the office. Only 10% of companies foresee hybrid working employees spending four days in the office and one remote.

This new mode of working poses challenges for managers, who need to grapple with managing their team across both office and remote locations. Around four organisations in 10 (41%) are planning to introduce line manager training in this area, with a further 18% already doing so. Training is most likely to focus on the skills required to manage a hybrid team, including developing communications skills for all.

While almost a third (30%) of businesses have already implemented hybrid working for the relevant employees by September, 16% of those surveyed said they were delaying the start of this new way of working. A number of respondents reported that hybrid working arrangements are still in a trial phase. The length of these varies widely – most commonly these are slated to last three months, or until the end of the year.

Noelle Murphy, senior HR practice editor at XpertHR, comments: “Many employees have made clear they have a preference for some form of hybrid working, while others feel there is little need to return to the workplace to carry out their work. There is also a sizeable number of employees whose roles have been deemed unsuitable for hybrid working who may feel aggrieved about the lack of flexibility on offer. With the ‘great resignation’ and the ever-growing war for talent, employers who ignore or do not meaningfully engage with these employees will lose key talent and vital experience over the coming months that will be much needed as the world looks to move on from the pandemic.”

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