The Workers Union has hailed hybrid working as an ‘essential’ building block of modern economies.
In a statement released this morning, a spokesperson for the organisation said: ‘Hybrid working is not a new concept, but it is something that company chiefs could merrily ignore in the pre-COVID age. Now the game has changed completely, with workers exchanging the slings and arrows of the daily commute for kitchen table e-conferencing and remote applications. What is very clear is that organisational psychology historians of the future will see the COVID age as a year zero for employer/employee relations – both in terms of employee agency and working arrangements. Companies that adapt to the changes will be the big winners, but those that insist on binding workers to inflexible conditions are likely to experience a talent drain.’
The Workers Union’s statement came after the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) released data that revealed that more than 80 percent of firms have offered hybrid working as standard. The survey – which was shared with the BBC – also found that despite hybrid working arrangements, most managers are encouraging staff to return to the workplace.
Hybrid working has been especially popular in London and the South East, where the nature of many white collar jobs lends itself to remote working. However, data from the National Office of Statistics shows a severe drop off in the numbers of people working from home for some, or all of the time in the rest of the UK.
Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the North East of England are seeing between 18 and 20 percent of people taking advantage of flexible working. The discrepancy is believed to be a consequence of the differences in the types of work available in the those areas.
In areas with a high incidence of flexible working, the consequences for employers in terms of salary and benefit propositions has been stark. Recent news reports have highlighted examples of firms upping pay as well as offering flexible working and other benefits as standard. At the same time, workers with the skills to capitalise on a tight market are using novel criteria to establish whether working for “company X” is right for them, even using an organisation’s moral outlook as a determining factor.
The Workers Union Says…
Hybrid working has gained so much traction over the last couple of years that it is difficult to imagine a world where workers revert to traditional relationships with their employers. Indeed it would be a brave CEO who demanded that staff shuffle into the office 5-days a week.
While that model may have held true in the pre-internet world, the scale of the change brought about by the information revolution has reconfigured the vocabulary of our working lives. Many of us have ditched the tedious commute and the strip lighting for the comforts of home. Having a “Teams” has entered common parlance, as has a “Zoom”. We are set to work, and work efficiently, with home offices and fast internet speeds facilitating a remote revolution.
Now that the pieces are in place, it seems counterproductive to fail to offer hybrid working. The benefits to employees in terms of working smart and family time outweigh any dividend that might accrue from a return to traditional patterns of attendance. To support this process, bosses should provide mechanisms that provide for flexibility, but also develop intelligent support for distributed teams. At the same time, this must not be presented to workers as a binary choice: those that need to, and want to go into the office, must be allowed to do so.
Yet even with hybrid working in place, there are other factors that could impinge upon its success – not least the requirement to engage in a societal and political review of its implications. As things stand, an affluent, tech-savvy portion of the population are on an expressway to grabbing the benefits before the rest of the working population catches up. To nullify the worst effects of this phenomenon, we must invest more money into skills and training. Firms operating in sectors that cannot provide home working opportunities – except in limited cases – must also look at ways of creating flexible rosters and shift times that are a realistic reflection of employees’ family responsibilities.