In a report by the UK Parliament, as of September 2022, 1 in 5 (22%) of the GB workforce worked at least 1 day from home during the week. The rise of remote working during the pandemic, followed by the ease of restrictions in recent times, has prompted many organisations to adopt hybrid working as the default mode of working. Opinions vary on how this has impacted the UK workforce, with different outcomes to have been reported.
Seeing how common it is now in the UK, it is worth wondering – is it negatively impacting the UK workforce?
The Rise of Hybrid Working
When pandemic-related restrictions were first introduced in the UK, working from the office was no longer an option. Companies quickly adapted to virtual working systems, introducing various technologies to support remote working for their employees. With the improvement of the situation, easing of restrictions started happening and many organisations gradually re-introduced on-site work.
However, many workers have accustomed to the remote working system as they have experienced benefits from working remotely. Survey data of the UK Parliament from 2021 and 2022 shows that over 80% of employees who have worked from home due to pandemic restrictions prefer hybrid working, while organisations have mixed preferences on the matter – with a quarter to around two-thirds of employers reported in 2021 to have intentions to implement or expand hybrid working.
Survey reports from Envoy also show that 55% of workers say that they would seek new job opportunities if their employer did not offer flexible working.
How has Hybrid Working Impacted Workers?
The flexible nature of the hybrid working model has produced a significant impact on workers. The impact has largely benefited them, allowing them to become more independent and efficient in many aspects of their professional and personal lives.
One of the key benefits reported for hybrid working is improved work-life balance, as reported by the Office for National Statistics. Not having to commute to the office has allowed employees to become more autonomous in their time management, increasing efficiency in work and reducing distractions. Increased productivity has also been reported, with some also mentioning that hybrid working allows them to explore personal passions.
With the hybrid working model, there is also now greater access to a more diverse pool of talent. Offering flexibility in working has allowed more groups of people to be included in the workforce, such as people who have dependants or other responsibilities outside of work.
Are There Any Downsides?
While most employees are in favour of hybrid working, it also causes the blurring between the boundaries of work and home life for some. There is potential for increased unpaid overtime work and workers might feel pressured to not “switch off”.
It is also harder for employers to identify struggling employees as some might choose to struggle in silence and would not go noticed by their employers, making it more difficult for employers to support employees with mental health issues.
Office benefits that are offered by employers to their employees have seen a reduction. In many offices, there has been a reduction in workplace canteens. This is due to fewer people coming into the office. However, many hybrid workers have experienced reductions in free or subsidised meals – causing them to spend their own money to account for their food expenses during working hours.
The hybrid working model has various impacts on the UK workforce. Although there are downsides to the model, the benefits seem to outweigh them as most workers who have experienced remote working are still in favour of hybrid working. The potential for negative impact on workers still exists, and employers should take reasonable steps to ensure that their employees will not be disadvantaged – no matter what working model they choose to adopt.