Future of hybrid in question, say business leaders

While most employers now allow a mix of home and office working, two in five decision makers believe they will return to old ways of working.

While the majority of businesses permit hybrid working, according to CIPD research, employers are divided over whether the current arrangements will last.

More than 78% of businesses (or 1,006 senior decision makers) permit hybrid working through either formal or informal agreements, according to a YouGov survey of 1,006 senior decision makers for the CIPD.

Of the remaining respondents, 13% stated the regulations weren’t typically applicable to their line of work or industry, and only 8% claimed they completely forbid a hybrid arrangement.

However, because businesses were divided on whether the measures would be successful in the long run, hybrid arrangements might only last temporarily.

While a comparable percentage (41%) of top decision makers believed the opposite, more than two in five (42%) indicated they thought the memory of the epidemic will fade rapidly and we would soon return to the way we operated before Covid-19.

Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, commented on the findings and cautioned that some workers would not be well-suited for hybrid working. He also advised employers to make sure that “there is consistency and fairness in how they manage, reward, and promote those who can work from home and those who attend the workplace every day.”

He also mentioned that, unless these are justified, there may be ethical and legal issues with paying or providing benefits differently for individuals who work from home vs those who work in an office.

He added that treating different groups of workers differently could also lead to or exacerbate pay gaps. “For instance, there could be a risk of indirect discrimination, as it’s likely that there will be more people with caring responsibilities, health conditions, or disabilities working more frequently from home,” he said.

More than two-thirds (68%) of companies indicated they had no plans to adjust the salary or benefits offered to hybrid employees, while 13% said they had. Only 4% of respondents claimed to have cut hybrid workers’ wages or perks.

A hybrid worker might not desire or require the same perks that full-time office workers cherish, according to Liverpool John Moores University lecturer and author Gemma Dale. But she added that maintaining the same wage would be appropriate.

We pay people for the work they do, not where they do it, outside of special circumstances, such as London weighted allowances accounting for greater cost of living in some places, she said.

She stated that it was “up for debate” as to whether or not hybrid work would endure, and that “only time will tell whether or not the hybrid work age has actually begun or whether it will merely become an opportunity for the few fortunate enough to work for a flexible business.”

A more assured Amy Butterworth, head of consultancy at Timewise, predicted that “very few organisations will reject hybrid working.”

The current appeal tool, she said, is “good flexible working.” People can better manage their work obligations with other commitments, such as attending doctor’s appointments, exercising, and picking up their children from school, if they are given some flexibility.

According to Butterworth, Timewise’s own research indicates that organisations are concentrating on implementing hybrid practises that are successful and that employers are considering additional types of time-based flexibility in addition to working from home.

According to the CIPD poll, although 44% of respondents claimed they had no minimum expectations, more than half (54%) of respondents expected hybrid workers to be in the office for a set number of days.

A minimum of two (34%) or three (32%) days were often required of those who said they anticipate personnel to be at work each week.

Overall, just 13% of senior decision-makers disagreed with the statement that managers in their organisations were more willing to trust employees to work from home and be productive after the pandemic made by 59% of senior decision-makers.