Hybrid working: employees reluctant to return to workplace

Hybrid working: employees reluctant to return to workplace

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Many offices remain sparsely populated as homeworking remains popular Photo: Shutterstock

New data reveals a clear majority of UK organisations are still encountering challenges implementing hybrid working, with reluctance to return to the workplace the leading issue faced by employers. Old fashioned ideas around productivity and location of workplace were also still causing friction at some organisations.

Of the 292 organisations surveyed by XpertHR, almost all (95%) operate a hybrid model. For most (59%) organisations, staff generally spend between two to three days working from home each week. However, more than a third (37%) of staff reported being unhappy with this split and would prefer to spend even less time in the office. Nearly all (95%) said they’d experienced challenges with implementation of hybrid schemes.

Reluctant returners are by no means a new phenomenon. In XpertHR’s 2021 report, a similar share of organisations (75%) said they had experienced unwillingness to return to the workplace.

The main reasons for it then were rooted in concerns around contracting Covid-19, but in this year’s survey XpertHR found motivations had shifted away from the downsides associated with going into the office and more towards the benefits of working from home – for example saving money on commuting and childcare arrangements.

Survey respondents were clear on the benefits of hybrid working for employers and employees alike, including improved work-life balance, increased productivity, improved engagement and a positive impact on attracting and retaining staff.

While improved work-life balance as a result of hybrid working was expected, there were more question marks around the impact this model would have on productivity. Survey respondents were clear that productivity has improved or increased, with many referencing the blend of remote working with workplace attendance allowing for better use of employees’ time – focused work can be done while remote, while in-person interactions can have employees’ full attention while in the workplace.

However, respondents also identified some of its pitfalls. Four in 10 (40%) UK organisations said they were observing a growing disconnect between staff members who work from home and those who go into the office, and fear a divide is beginning to form.

Noelle Murphy, senior HR practice editor at XpertHR, said that old fashioned ideas that led to presenteeism were still present at some workplaces: “HR has managed one of the biggest changes to working life since the industrial revolution with hybrid working, but it is still a work in progress. Challenges continue and HR will need to continue to address these, while ensuring this new way of working delivers for all employees – and that includes people managers and senior leaders.

“HR is clear that there is work to be done challenging the outdated view that presenteeism means productivity, and that where the work is done is less important than the quality of the work produced. While there are retention challenges facing employers right now, it is even more important that HR can continue to evolve and tweak hybrid working models to ensure they support and facilitate a culture of connection and collaboration that will deliver engaged employees and a successful business.

“Communication models need to support hybrid working and can demonstrate transparency and fairness both in the design and rollout of their working model. An emphasis on intentional communication and interactions – remote or face-to-face – and encouraging accountability among all employees for their role in team engagement and connection will build a culture that will facilitate highly effective hybrid working and continue to deliver sound benefits for the business.”

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