Half of employers expect more flexible working requests as Covid ends, poll finds

Figures come as Acas launches new guidance on making hybrid working fair and transparent

More than half of employers expect to receive more flexible working requests as the UK comes out of the pandemic, a survey has found. 

A YouGov poll of more than 2,000 senior decision makers in UK companies, conducted on behalf of Acas, found 55 per cent expected an increase in the number of staff working remotely for part of the week.

Half of those polled (49 per cent) said they expected more staff to work remotely all week.

Acas has published the findings alongside new guidance for businesses on how to implement hybrid practices in a fair and transparent way.

The conciliation service recommends employers consult widely with staff about introducing hybrid working on issues including health and safety, performance management and the use of technology.

It also advises employers to avoid excluding remote workers from workplace opportunities including training and learning and development.

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“The pandemic has greatly impacted working life and it’s unsurprising that many employers and their staff have seen the benefits of flexible working during this difficult period,” said Susan Clews, chief executive of Acas.

Commenting on the findings, Cary Cooper, president of the CIPD and professor of organisational psychology at the University of Manchester, said many workers had wanted a hybrid working model before the pandemic but were put off over fears it would have been interpreted as a lack of commitment.

Now, employers are more welcoming of hybrid models, motivated by productivity increases and the prospects of downsizing their estates.

But, Cooper warned, businesses risked creating a gender disparity in the workforce unless as many men adopted hybrid working as women. “If men go in five days a week, they can claim the organisation’s politics, and they’re there when a promotion comes,” he said.

For a similar reason, Cooper warned that take-up of hybrid working could be low in the first six months after furlough ends, as the impending economic recession will make people fear that their jobs are insecure. He urged employers to train line managers in people skills, and how to manage those working from home and in the office and recognise when they need support.

“Employers also need to ensure that, when they recruit or promote people to a managerial role, they have more emotionally intelligent managers,” Cooper said.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, also warned of a “new class divide” emerging if the rollout of hybrid working wasn’t managed properly – with workers in roles that can’t be done remotely missing out.

“Every worker in every job should be able to work flexibly,” she said. “As Acas guidance makes clear, employers should consider other forms of flexible working alongside hybrid working – things like flexitime, term-time working, job-sharing, compressed hours and predictable shift patterns.”