More than two in five employers (41 per cent) will have adopted hybrid working in two years’ time, a survey has found, with only three in 10 (30 per cent) businesses expecting to have their workforce fully back on site before 2023.
The poll of senior employee benefits professionals at 121 UK organisations by Willis Towers Watson found that hybrid was the working model of choice. The vast majority (85 per cent) of businesses predicted a return to the workplace for most employees who wanted to by the end of 2021, but did not anticipate a return to pre-pandemic, full-time working practices.
Businesses also predicted that around a quarter of the workforce (23 per cent) would be working remotely on a full-time basis in two years’ time, and more than two in five (41 per cent) will embrace hybrid working.
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Lucie McGrath, director for health and benefits GB at Willis Towers Watson, said that employers should “think carefully” about how to support their employees’ mental health as organisations begin returning to work.
“While uncertainty is unavoidable as businesses take tentative steps back towards the workplace, it can also feel unsettling for employees,” said McGrath, adding that people who have worked from home for the last two years may find it “tiring to spend more time in their workplaces”.
Meanwhile, a separate study of 3,000 UK adults by LifeSearch found a similar split between workers who would like to work on a hybrid basis (44 per cent), compared to those who would rather be exclusively home or work-based (51 per cent).
Of those who said they’d prefer a hybrid setup, the most popular option was a 50/50 split between home and work (44 per cent); followed by three-quarters of their time in the workplace and a quarter at home (29 per cent); and three-quarters of time at home and a quarter in the workplace (27 per cent).
However, more than a third (36 per cent) of those polled would prefer to be in the workplace on a full-time basis, while just 15 per cent said they would like to be working full time from home.
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Claire McCartney, senior resourcing and inclusion adviser at the CIPD, said there was no ‘one size fits all’ approach to hybrid working, but employers should consider employee preferences and fairness.
"We would encourage employers to balance individual needs and preferences against those of the team and organisation when deciding on a suitable arrangement,” said McCartney, adding that hybrid workers should get “the same opportunities as those that are attending the workplace on a regular basis, and process and practices should be reviewed through a fairness and inclusion lens".
Additionally, the LifeSearch survey revealed only 15 per cent of workers said they had been consulted on their working preferences by their employer, and more than half (58 per cent) said they were not happy with their current working setup.
Almost one in 10 (9 per cent) claimed their employer wanted them back in the workplace more but they do not want to go, and just one in five (19 per cent) reported having received clear expectations on how they need to work.
Ian Moore, founder of HR consultancy Lodge Court, said that allowing employees a choice to work either from home or from the office was a benefit and should be treated as such.
“It needs to be made clear to all employees that this benefit is overruled by certain things such as poor performance or work priorities,” he said, adding that managers should sit down with individuals and agree their working location, set it out formally and add it to company policies to “ensure you stay in control”.