Business leaders split over future of hybrid, CIPD poll finds

While most employers now allow a mix of home and office working, two in five decision makers believe they will return to old ways of working

Credit: fizkes/Getty Images

Research by the CIPD has revealed that while the majority of businesses are allowing hybrid working, employers are split over whether arrangements will remain in place. 

A poll of 1,006 senior decision makers, carried out by YouGov for the CIPD, found that more than three-quarters (78 per cent) of firms allow hybrid working through either formal or informal arrangements. 

Of the rest, 13 per cent said the measures weren't generally applicable for their job or sector and only 8 per cent said they don’t allow a hybrid arrangement at all.

New workers can struggle with remote communication – but it doesn’t have to be this way

Majority of L&D professionals believe line managers need specific training for hybrid working

Does hybrid working increase loneliness?

However, hybrid arrangements may be short lived as employers were split on whether or not the measures will work in the future. 

More than two in five (42 per cent) senior decision makers said they felt the memory of the pandemic would fade quickly and it would be little time before we reverted to the way we worked before Covid-19, while a similar proportion (41 per cent) believed the opposite.

Commenting on the findings, Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, warned that hybrid working will not be suited to some workers, and advised employers to ensure “there is consistency and fairness in how they manage, reward and promote those who can work from home and those who attend the workplace every day”.

Get more HR and employment law news like this delivered straight to your inbox every day – sign up to People Management’s PM Daily newsletter

He also suggested that there could be ethical and legal considerations for differentiating pay or benefits between those working from home and those working in the office, unless these can be justified.

“For example, there could be a risk of indirect discrimination, as it’s likely that there will be more people with caring responsibilities, health conditions or disabilities working more regularly from home,” he said, adding that treating groups of workers differently could also cause or exacerbate pay gaps.

More than two-thirds (68 per cent) of employers said that they did not plan to make any changes to pay or benefits for hybrid workers, with 13 per cent saying they did plan changes. Just 4 per cent of respondents said they had reduced pay or benefits for hybrid workers.

Gemma Dale, author and lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University, warned the benefits valued by full-time office workers could be different to those that a hybrid worker would want or need. But, she said, it would be appropriate for pay to remain the same.

“Outside of specific situations, such as London weighting allowances compensating for higher cost of living in some areas, we are paying people for the work that they do – not where they do it,” she said. 

Whether hybrid working could last was “up for discussion”, she said, adding that “only time will tell whether or not the hybrid work era has truly begun or whether it will simply become an opportunity for the few lucky enough to work for a flexible employer”.

Amy Butterworth, head of consultancy at Timewise, was more confident, saying she expects “very few organisations to reject hybrid working”.

“Good flexible working is the attraction tool of the moment,” she explained. “Enabling people to have some flexibility helps them to balance work responsibilities with things like health appointments, exercise and picking up kids from school.” 

Butterworth said Timewise’s own research suggested organisations were focussing on embedding hybrid practices that worked well, and that employers were looking at more forms of time-based flexibility as well as working from home.

The CIPD survey found that more than half (54 per cent) of respondents expected hybrid workers to be in the office for a minimum number of days, although 44 per cent said they had no minimum expectations.

Among those who said they expect staff in the workplace each week, a minimum of two (34 per cent) or three days (32 per cent) was the typical requirement.

Overall, more than half (59 per cent) of senior decision makers said managers in their organisations were more likely to trust people to work from home and be productive following the pandemic, with just 13 per cent in disagreement.