The COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly changed many aspects of our lifestyles, but some of those day-to-day differences have had a lasting effect. While working from home was a key element of tackling the virus, for many businesses it highlighted the fact that for many, being in the office every day isn’t the only way to get things done.
Make way for hybrid working: A flexible working model that allows employees to split time between working from home and being in office. Perhaps unsurprisingly, meeting in the middle and following a hybrid working model has been shown to be a top preference for UK employees in 2022, as opposed to being permanently either in the office or at home. Here’s what the perks and pitfalls are and why it’s going to stick in 2023.
Why has hybrid working been making waves?
For many nine to fivers, pre-pandemic work life has been a repetitious daily routine, desperately clinging to evenings and weekends to be able to do housework and run errands. This is a recipe for burnout. It’s as simple as cutting out that commute a few days a week and being able to complete housework during lunch breaks that can help ease that overwhelming feeling of life getting on top of you.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, 65% of employers either offered no option for regular work from home, or offered it to less than 10% of their workforce. While this wasn’t a popular working model before 2019, working from home became a necessity to effectively quell the spread of the virus, and this proved that a range of industries can facilitate working from home. For many companies, it’s as simple as sending employees home with a laptop.
It’s become apparent that many employees value flexible working such as a hybrid work week. In fact, in February 2022, 84% of those who had to work from home said that they planned to go forward with a split between home working and being in the workplace.
This being said, not all employers, and indeed not all employees, want to work from home, and in certain industries it’s far less practical to do so. As many as nine in 10 organisations offer some form of EAP while research from HR Expert found that counselling services have had the largest take-up of EAP offerings provided by employers over the last three years within UK organisations.
Pros and cons
As with being fully in the office or entirely working remotely, there are benefits and drawbacks to hybrid working. Of course this is also dependent on the specifics of the hybrid model – if it’s the ‘3-2’ setup of having three days in office and two days at home, this puts a majority of time in the office, potentially easing concerns of unproductivity or a lack of socialisation. The selected office days can also affect how well it works for the workplace – for example does your office follow a Monday, Wednesday, Friday pattern, or go through Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday in office?
It also makes a big difference if there are set office days versus leaving it up to employees to choose their work days. While the flexibility can be beneficial, coming into an empty office can feel like a waste of time.
So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of hybrid working, both for the employer and the employees:
- Save money on commuting. No more shelling out for petrol or bus passes, this benefit could also open up opportunities for jobs that otherwise wouldn’t be considered, e.g. someone not able to commute to London daily but able to go into the city two or three times a week instead
- Enables a healthier work-life balance, good for wellbeing
- Hybrid working could prove especially beneficial for employees with disabilities – disabled employees were found to be 11% more likely to prefer a hybrid work model
- Ability to do housework/errands outside of evenings or weekends (think being able to pop to the bank in your lunch hour rather than taking a half day off!)
- Save money by making lunch at home
- Be home for children coming home from school, tradesmen, post
- Being around for pet care if you have a cat, dog, or other dependent animal
- Skipping that commute means more sleep
- Physical comfort – being able to have the heating on how you like or the windows open if you prefer, without having an office debate. Also being able to wear loungewear (as long as you don’t have any important Zoom meetings!)
- Employers can save on bills, not needing to pay for electricity, heating and water five days a week can ease financial stress for the company
- Have happier employees that are more likely to give back, and more willing to help out
- If increasing salaries isn’t a possibility, at least by giving employees more freedom and saving money on the commute it could help with employee retention and staff satisfaction
- Less socialising, so that team bond could be compromised if there are too few office hours with everyone in – although monthly team-building social activities may be a way to combat this
- Not having a suitable office space at home could be a problem – noisy neighbours or a lack of desk could compromise the quality of work
- While office bills could be reduced, at home bills could increase
- More stationary lifestyle without commuting – equally though, there is an opportunity to use the lunch break to do a home workout or run
- Having to cart a laptop, keyboard, headset, and any other equipment to and from the office can be a pain
- Some people simply prefer being in office
- Difficulty with training as it’s always easier in person
- Communicating effectively, which can make group projects especially difficult
- Appropriate equipment is needed – taking things back and forth can be a security risk and require insurance
- Limitations for certain industries – the hybrid working model may work better for some businesses more than others
- Potential for certain people to be less productive – although this one could go either way depending on a lot of factors. In a survey of eight thousand people by Gallup, employees actually said they felt that they were more productive with hybrid working.
Hybrid working doesn’t look like it’ll be disappearing anytime soon, but of course working models are entirely subject to individual businesses. Finding a way that works for both employers and employees is key, and this can have a big impact on employee satisfaction.