7 February 2023 – Even though pandemic restrictions are no longer in force, many companies have introduced hybrid working models. Flexible working is now seen as improving productivity and motivation by most managers.
Before the pandemic, flexible or hybrid working had a stigma attached to it, which meant it could hinder career progression. But this has now changed.
A study by the Equal Parenting Project, led by the University of Birmingham and the University of York, has shown that 75% of managers think that hybrid working boosts productivity. 62.5% believe it increases motivation.
For employees, hybrid working means a better life/work balance, as they can fit work around their responsibilities at home and their lifestyle.
With managers and employees seeing the benefits of flexible working, will it become the new normal?
Hybrid Working As A Way To Attract Talent
According to figures by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the labour market is still tight. Between October and December 2022, there were 1,161,000 job vacancies across the UK. Which is 365,000 more than before the pandemic, from January to March 2020.
This means that attracting talent and employees with the right skills is a big challenge for many businesses. And with many workers keen to keep working flexible to improve their work/life balance, offering hybrid working is one way for businesses to attract talent.
Four out of five companies believe that offering flexible working is vital for the success of their business, a new research by DocuSign indicates.
With 56% of UK businesses seeing recruitment as their main priority in 2023, it becomes more important to implement hybrid or flexible working policies to get the staff they need.
However, the survey also shows that over 50% of businesses asked don’t have flexible working policies in place. This could make it difficult for these firms to retain their staff and attract new employees.
25% said they are working towards developing appropriate policies. And 7% have plans to provide flexible working to their staff in the future.
But the ability to offer hybrid working depends on the right digital infrastructure being in place. And this causes many businesses problems.
Technology Is Key
In order to support flexible working, a business needs to have the right technology. While this can be expensive, the DocuSign survey shows that 40% of businesses see it as the main reason to invest in technology.
Cloud technology has been identified as the main capability for success, with 51% of firms surveyed already using a cloud service to store their documents. 49% have invested in technology that allows staff to connect on a central platform from wherever they are.
While 46% have the infrastructure in place necessary to digitally send and sign documents to increase productivity.
But with increased use of technology the need for cybersecurity becomes more important too. A study by CyberArk has found that 89% of senior security professionals in the UK identified hybrid working as the biggest cybersecurity risk to their company.
The research also shows that 50% of staff members can access sensitive corporate data of their organisation. No wonder hybrid workers are becoming more often the target of threat actors.
And although cloud technology is great for enabling staff from different locations to collaborate, it also poses a big risk. 77% of the surveyed think that cloud services are a significant cybersecurity risk.
During the pandemic, many businesses had to develop the necessary infrastructure to enable staff to work from home quickly. This left many vulnerable to cyberattacks. Even now, many organisations struggle to keep up to date with security policies.
Ways of working have adapted dramatically over the last few years. But periods of huge change are now commonplace and can no longer be an excuse for outdated security practices.David Higgins, Senior Director at Field Technology Office at CyberArk
Workplace Culture At Risk
While flexible working boosts productivity and gives employees a better balance between private and professional life, workplace culture could get lost.
Research by insurer Bupa has shown that only 15% reported that hybrid working has been a benefit for the company culture.
In an office environment, teamwork and supporting each other can stimulate creativity. But when team members work from home, this aspect of working in an office gets lost.
Another study, by Oscar Acoustics, has also found that many workers are reluctant to go back to the office due to chatty colleagues. The data shows that 75% of employees said they find it difficult to concentrate in a noisy office.
As a result, many prefer to work from home, where they find peace and quiet. 25% of UK workers are concerned about going back to the office due to excessive noise.
Noise at work has always been a source of contention but now, after so much time spent at home, people are finding it intolerable. We should see it as a wakeup call for major change.Ben Hancock, Managing Director at Oscar Acoustics
This can cause a big challenge for managers and business owners to create the right office environment for their staff.
But if they want to introduce a successful hybrid working model, it is vital that they find a way to set up their offices to make it a useful space for their staff. Otherwise, they might find it difficult to entice them back to the office.