A quarter of UK workers are now hybrid working, official figures have shown, while nearly half are working exclusively in the office.
Data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found the proportion of workers who split their time between home and the office increased to 24 per cent in May, up from 13 per cent in February when lockdown restrictions in Scotland and England were coming to an end.
Over the same timeframe, the percentage of people working only from home fell from 22 per cent to 14 per cent over the same timeframe, while nearly half (46 per cent) of those polled in May said they were exclusively travelling to their place of work.
Commenting on the findings, Alan Price, CEO of BrightHR, said many employers were keen to embrace remote or hybrid working, but firms needed to ensure remote workers have the same opportunities and attention as staff working on site.
Employers also needed to provide clear communication channels to ensure managers can engage with their remote workforce as easily as they do with their office based employees, he said.
“With more employees working from home than ever before, it’s important employers take steps to ensure their workplace is safe and comfortable,” Price added.
Amy Butterworth, head of consultancy at Timewise, agreed that firms need to make staff feel connected, and added that managers need to be trained in managing teams with diverse needs and working patterns.
“Being a great employer means being great at flexible working,” she said. “And that’s not something you can learn through osmosis.”
The ONS poll found the majority (78 per cent) of people who worked from home at least some of the time said they had a better work-life balance.
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Similarly, half (53 per cent) said there were fewer distractions working from home; 52 per cent said they were quicker completing their work; and 47 per cent said their wellbeing improved.
However, nearly half (48 per cent) said working with others was more difficult.
Three in five businesses (60 per cent) also saw an improvement in the wellbeing of their staff who were working from home at least some of the time. Reduced overheads (43 per cent) and increased productivity (41 per cent) were also cited by businesses as benefits of hybrid working.
"Remote working has undeniably created opportunities for both employees and employers, but there have been downsides too,” said Ian Moore, managing director of Lodge Court, who cautioned that changing working patterns without creating the right processes could cause problems for firms.
“Employers need to think beyond technology and skills training, and remember the importance of people management in every office, virtual or otherwise,” he said,
When done right, hybrid working created real benefits for employees, said Renée Clarke, director of Work Well Hub. “Juggling childcare when working from an office location proves a difficult task for many parents,” she said. “Having the flexibility to work from home either full or part time provides more opportunities for parents to achieve a better work-life balance.”
But, she said: “Despite the ONS findings, we are seeing more employers move from the flexibility of home working to requesting staff return to the office”.