It’s been a few weeks now since many office workers began the gradual return to their traditional billets, which in the absence of any new pandemic setbacks will be the first serious trial run of the new social contract of hybrid working.
This updated relationship between employer and staff is the biggest experiment in flexible working ever seen. The salient question is whether nearly two years of enforced home working has truly moved the dial, or will the workplace culture from decades prior reassert its supremacy?
A recent poll by s1jobs found that only 33 per cent of people would like to work remotely full-time, while 61% prefer a hybrid model. Tellingly, just 6% wanted to go back to a full-time office-based structure.
No two hybrid work structures will be exactly the same as they will be built around the needs of each organisation and the individuals within. This requires a change of approach managing people and performance.
Some employers have turned to surveillance technology to address this issue, and many others may be considering the same. But such solutions come with potential legal pitfalls and, perhaps more importantly, the risk of losing employees’ trust.
During the long months of lockdowns we learned that remote working is viable, and we came to increasingly appreciate the value of trust in our working relationships. This has provided a testbed for the development of effective home and hybrid working practices, but organisations and individuals will need to be flexible as these continue to evolve.
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A recent YouGov survey of more than 2,000 workers found that 51% would consider leaving a company that does not offer hybrid working. There is also the question of reduced working hours, with more than 30 UK companies currently trialling a four-day working week as part of an international pilot study to measure the impact on productivity.
This is a welcome shift towards a greater focus on productivity that should allow employers to reduce workers’ hours without cutting pay. Rather than focusing on how long people are “at work”, it’s time to look at actual output.
The health threat posed by Covid and its hydra-like variants is not entirely over yet either. Some employees will have legitimate fears of infection, potential harm to loved ones, and anxieties about perhaps losing out – both professionally and financially – if they resist any coercion to return to pre-pandemic ways. This too will factor into the great flexible working experiment.
Search the latest jobs in Scotland at s1jobs.