Half of workers concerned hybrid working could lead to discrimination, report finds

Experts say HR has a role to play in ensuring line managers are prepared to deal with new challenges

More than half of employees are concerned that hybrid workers could be discriminated against or treated differently to full-time office workers, a poll has found.

The Poly Evolution of the Workplace report, which polled 2,003 UK hybrid workers, found 57 per cent were concerned they would face discrimination because of their working arrangement.

Nearly half (46 per cent) said they were worried that working remotely could impact their career development and progression, while 54 per cent said they were concerned they would miss out on ad hoc learning and development opportunities, including learning from peers and seniors, while working from home.

Gary Cookson, director of Epic HR, said the figures were not surprising, and underlined how much work still needed to be done to explain how hybrid and remote workers access workplace learning.

“Learning can and should take place anywhere, and while many individuals will have more experience of this, they perhaps feel that more will be provided for, or available to, those in the office,” said Cookson.

But, he said: “That will not be the case if people professionals, particularly L&D specialists, create the right kinds of socialised learning opportunities and the right kinds of hybrid learning.

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The poll also found evidence that the lines between flexible working and being “always on” were blurring. Three in five (60 per cent) of UK workers polled said they felt the rise in remote working has meant they are always on and unable to relax.

The survey also found UK workers were concerned that increased home working was detrimental to company culture. Two-thirds (67 per cent) said they felt it had changed company culture forever.

Similarly, almost half (48 per cent) said remote working had made them less confident in their ability to communicate effectively, and 45 per cent felt they had “lost the art of small talk” as part of their job.

But despite this, the report found that only 10 per cent of UK workers who were currently hybrid working said they intended to work just one day at home, with 30 per cent preferring to work three days at home and two days in the office.

Ngozi Weller, co-founder of Aurora Wellness, said preparation and planning can help hybrid and home workers avoid burnout and the risk of being ‘always on’.

“Employees need to protect themselves from the risk of burnout by planning for their personal wellbeing as a regular part of the work day,” said Weller. “This could look different for each of us, but the principle of good work hygiene is the same.”

Cookson added that the emphasis should be placed on managers, as they can help teams to agree on new ways of working.

“Managers should give guidance to employees on blocking time in diaries for lunch and other personal time, focused time to get work done, their definite start and end times and more,” he said.

HR also had a responsibility to train line managers on what they need to notice and pick up on when leading remote and hybrid teams, said Cookson. “Managers should be able to pick up on subtle signals around communication, working hours and outputs. This training should also equip them to have appropriate conversations around wellbeing.”