Businesses that are considering removing a hybrid working option and bringing workers back to the office full time risk losing more than half of their staff, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by Microsoft UK.
The online survey of 2,046 employees and 504 HR decision makers (HRDMs) found that 51% of UK workers who are able to combine office work with home-working said they would consider leaving their company if this flexibility was taken away.
Many organisations have started to inform their office-based staff that they must return to the work premises on a full-time basis after a prolonged period of remote working at home.
However, other organisations have provided their employees with the flexibility to split their work time between the office and the home environment. Many employers recognise the potential business benefits that hybrid working offers and also that it is a model that many employees prefer.
According to the Microsoft UK research, which was carried out in October 2021 and published last month, the pandemic has made hybrid working a ‘must-have’ for many employees.
Fifty-nine per cent of HRDMs polled said that hybrid working has had a positive effect on the mental health of their workforce.
Surveyed HRDMs also identified five top risks for businesses that did not provide a hybrid working model. Top of the list, with 38%, was an inability to retain new talent and the risk of losing staff to organisations that offer better hybrid working options.
The other four risks were a negative impact on productivity (25%), a negative impact on staff wellbeing (24%), employee burnout (23%) and an inability to keep up with industry competitors (23%).
However, for those employees who have taken on new roles during the pandemic, the survey found that on-boarding at a new business has presented some significant challenges.
More than a third of workers who had started a new job had experienced the entire on-boarding process remotely.
For those workers surveyed, 42% admitted that being unable to attend the physical workplace had made it hard to establish working relationships. Just over a third (33%) said they had struggled because they had not had a manager or team ‘in the room’ to ask for information or guidance.
A number of other issues were also identified by workers who had on-boarded remotely. Of those surveyed, 24% said they had struggled to learn to use new software and applications; 23% felt they had not earnt the confidence of colleagues; and 21% had not been able to fully immerse themselves in the company culture.
Challenges around on-boarding were also reflected in the responses provided by HRDMs who manage the recruitment process.
'Organisations now have an opportunity to reshape work around individual roles, preferences and even personal lives'
The survey found that more than a third (36%) of HRDMs felt remote on-boarding had made it difficult to provide effective, role-specific training for new starters. At the same time, 35% had voiced concerns about employees being able to easily access the information they needed ‘to hit the ground running’.
On a more positive note, 37% of the HRDMs surveyed who had on-boarded staff remotely since the start of the process, said that although the process had been challenging, the right technology solutions had helped to resolve the situation.
‘The pandemic has proven that organisations can trust their people to be productive wherever they are,’ said Nick Hedderman, director of Modern Work Business Group at Microsoft UK.
‘They now have an opportunity to reshape work around individual roles, preferences and even personal lives. This is achievable through tech-enabled hybrid working models, which supports the creation of a rich digital culture to benefit everyone, helping to attract and retain top talent.’
Although many organisations have recognised the benefits of flexible work patterns and set up hybrid work schedules, employers still need to ensure that this new way of working does not introduce new risks.
On Tuesday, 18 January, IOSH magazine will host a one-hour webinar in partnership with EcoOnline to discuss how OSH professionals can ensure the right safeguards are in place to manage the risks effectively.
The expert panel will set the scene by first discussing the transition from lockdown home-working to a hybrid work model and what a policy should cover.
As part of the safeguards to protect employees, the experts will also cover the importance of risk assessing the workspace and how to set up display screen equipment correctly, not least to minimise the risk of musculoskeletal disorders developing in the future.
The webinar will also explore key challenges around working from home that have come to light during lockdowns, notably staff working longer hours and losing face-to-face interaction with colleagues and managers.
The experts will provide advice on how to minimise stressful situations and what measures are needed to ensure staff can interact with colleagues and managers and receive the support they need. The experts will also discuss the role that digital solutions can play to enhance hybrid working patterns.