The future of the workplace: is hybrid working here to stay?

Employee working from home

Hybrid working is popular with 85 per cent of people who worked from home during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

But what are the pros and cons of running your business this way and do you need a hybrid working policy?

What is hybrid working?

The hybrid working meaning is when a company gives its employees the flexibility to split their time between working remotely and from the office. For most people, remote working means working from home, but it could also mean working out of a shared office space or local coffee shop.

Hybrid working isn’t just about where you work from, though. Some companies are implementing a hybrid model of working by:

  • working a four day week
  • allowing employees to work abroad
  • offering unlimited holiday
  • working compressed hours around personal schedules

At its best, hybrid working uses an agile methodology in which everyone is trusted to perform at their best no matter where or when they’re working. It should also encourage regular connections and meet-ups in the office to sustain a company’s culture.

The impact of Covid-19

Hybrid working is nothing new, but its growth has been sped up by the Covid-19 pandemic as people had to work from home due to government restrictions.

As we come out the other side of the pandemic, many people are reflecting on the way they work with an increased desire for flexibility and a better work/life balance.

In fact, more than half of all UK employees (57 per cent) are expected to work from home some of the time going forward, according to the ONS, which is more than double pre-pandemic levels.

Perfecting the hybrid model will be challenging for small businesses, from having the infrastructure to support remote working to making sure employees remain connected to each other.

Do you need a hybrid working policy?

Working from home isn’t a legal entitlement, so it’s entirely your decision as an employer if you want to allow remote working.

If you go down the hybrid route, you’re not legally required to provide staff with a hybrid working policy.

However, it’s definitely worth creating one. This is because it gives you the opportunity to set out rules and expectations, letting everyone know where they stand and reducing the likelihood of complaints or disciplinary action.

Some of the things a good hybrid working policy could include are:

  • details on how many days employees are expected in the office
  • any equipment or IT security requirements for staff working from home
  • what’s expected of remote workers

Hybrid working policy template

If you’re going to allow your employees to work from home and encourage a hybrid working model, our customisable working from home policy template can help you get started.

Read our guide on working from home policies for further information.

The pros and cons of hybrid working for small business owners

Hybrid working is a polarising subject among business owners. Some are keen to give their employees flexibility, while others think it’s more rewarding to have their workforce in the office as much as possible.

If you run a small business, we’ve outlined some of the main advantages and disadvantages of operating a hybrid working model.

Hybrid business video call


The benefits of hybrid working

  • lower running costs – if people aren’t in the office every day, your utility bills and food and drink costs will be lower, but you could end up paying a lot for space that isn’t being used
  • increased flexibility and wellbeing – giving your employees more freedom could lead to higher satisfaction levels, as well as higher productivity
  • less time commuting – not only does staff morale improve when they have to commute less, but it also means there’s extra time in the day to get things done (although that doesn’t mean longer working hours)
  • more staff to choose from – if your business is growing, a hybrid model allows you to recruit from a wider geographical area. Other benefits of hybrid working could be keeping your people happy and retaining staff
  • lower carbon footprint – businesses that aren’t in the office every day could consume less energy and become more sustainable

The downsides of hybrid working

  • unreliability of home networks – a poor internet connection could affect an employee’s ability to work. There are also increased IT security risks to consider if staff are working remotely
  • higher bills for staff – employees could spend more on utility bills, although they can claim tax relief if they have to work from home
  • lack of human connection – staff could feel alone and disconnected. Regular video calls can help but they can’t replace meeting people in person
  • loss of culture – although your employees will work with their immediate team members closely, there could be a disconnect with the wider business
  • higher chance of distractions – the temptation to turn on the TV or do jobs around the home could lead to procrastination and lower productivity

How should business owners approach hybrid working?

If you’ve decided that you want to give your employees the option of working both from home and in the office, it can be difficult to know where to start.

Here are four steps that can help you to create a successful hybrid working environment:

  1. Listen to your employees – it makes sense to act on what your employees want, so make sure you listen to their needs and challenges. Remember, everyone is different and what works for some people may not work for others.
  2. Make a plan – you need to make sure your business structure supports both office and remote working, so you’ll need to think about HR policies, as well as the tech and processes you’re using.
  3. Make the office appealing – if your office isn’t somewhere people like to go, it’s unlikely to attract employees on a regular basis. It’s important to make sure that when employees do come in they can make meaningful connections through team activities and meetings.
  4. Keep evolving as people’s needs change – although hybrid working appears here to stay, you’ll need to keep updating your approach. Meeting the needs of your staff is key to high productivity levels and keeping your best people.

What are other companies doing about hybrid working?

Since 2020, there’s been an ongoing debate around whether companies should adopt a hybrid working model, go fully remote, or bring staff back to the office on a daily basis.

Here’s an overview of the varied approaches taken by some well-known businesses:

PwC – the accountancy firm announced in spring 2022 that its staff could take Friday afternoons off during the summer. The company says it’s trying to retain its best staff, while the decision caused an angry response from Lord Alan Sugar.

Klarna – the retail finance company announced a flexible working policy, allowing staff “greater choice, autonomy, and flexibility”. It used learnings from the last two years to make its decision to allow staff to choose where they work, but will still be encouraging in-person connections.

Stephenson Harwood – this London law firm has given its staff the option to work from home permanently if they accept a 20 per cent pay cut. Employees that want to keep full pay will have to visit the office at least three times a week.

Goldman Sachs – the CEO of the investment bank called remote working an ‘aberration’ in 2021 and the firm has since encouraged all its staff to return to the office full time.

The latest hybrid working statistics

Due to the rapid changes to working practices in the last few years, there’s been plenty of research into the impact of flexible working.

Here’s a selection of figures from various research reports, showing a mixed response to hybrid working:

  • 77 per cent of UK employees want a mix of face-to-face and remote working (PwC Hopes and Fears Survey)
  • 59 per cent of people said that flexibility is more important to them than salary or other benefits (Jabra Ways of Working: 2021 Global Report)
  • 77 per cent of UK organisations plan to reconfigure their existing office (PwC Future of the Office Survey)
  • 46 per cent of workers say their employer doesn’t help them with remote work expenses (Microsoft)
  • 80 per cent of leaders in the financial services sector want workers to spend four to five days in the office (Accenture)
  • 69 per cent of employees working from home report burnout symptoms (Monster)
  • 66 per cent of business decision makers are considering redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments (Microsoft)

Where are the UK’s hybrid working hotspots?

The UK is leading the way when it comes to small and medium sized businesses using a hybrid business model, according to research by Boston Consulting Group. Almost three quarters (74 per cent) of employees working at SMEs said they work fully or partly remotely, the highest in the G7.

But where in the UK is remote working popular? Joint research by Zoom and Indeed has named Worthing in Sussex, Burnley in Lancashire, and Stoke in Staffordshire as the top three remote hiring hotpots in the UK.

Job adverts offering remote working in Worthing increased by 650 per cent between February 2020 and March 2022, rising by 391 per cent and 323 per cent in Burnley and Stoke respectively during the same period.

More useful guides for small business owners

Is hybrid working here to stay? Let us know in the comments below.

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Conor Shilling

Conor Shilling is a professional writer with over 10 years’ experience across the property, small business, and insurance sectors. A trained journalist, Conor’s previous experience includes writing for several leading online property trade publications. Conor has worked at Simply Business as a Copywriter for three years, specialising in the buy-to-let market, landlords, and small business finance.

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