Organisation Development, Culture and Change

Blog: Hardly Working or Working from Home?

  • July 6, 2022

Hybrid and flexible working seem here to stay – but what do people think of it?

How are people working now?

As the pandemic continues, so do organisations’ efforts to adapt working conditions to employee and business needs.

CRF survey data suggests that hybrid and flexible working have become the norm since the start of the pandemic. Over half of those surveyed have adopted hybrid working for most of their employees, and a further 31% have adopted hybrid working for all. On top of that, 45% were offering flexible working hours to most staff.

This shift appears to be backed up by broader findings. Nicholas Bloom and colleagues at Stanford University concluded that around 22% of working days will now be supplied from home compared with 5% pre-pandemic. Their research attributes this shift to five factors:

  • better-than-expected experience of working from home, including workers reporting higher productivity
  • investments in equipment and infrastructure to make homeworking a success
  • reducing the stigma of homeworking
  • a reluctance to return to pre-pandemic ways of working
  • innovations that support working from home.

What does that look like?

CRF survey data reflects 2-3 days a week in the office as the most common practice. Only 4% report a return to full-time office working and a quarter (26%) of organisations appear to have settled for employees attending the office only 1 day per week – perhaps reflecting the challenges companies are facing persuading people to return to the office.

However, there are notable exceptions. For example, Neil Morrison, Group HR Director at water company Severn Trent, reported that his business has now resumed pre-pandemic ‘normal’ working patterns and office attendance, as 60% of their staff are frontline key workers. This approach appears to be an outlier, but has been echoed to a lesser extent by others who work in industrial, retail or service sectors.

When it comes to productivity, most respondents report their organisation is ‘significantly’ (19%) or ‘somewhat’ (35%) more productive, with 31% saying productivity remains more or less the same as before.

How do people feel about it?

Our data show that employers’ attitudes to the new working practices are more positive today than they were in the early stages of the pandemic. 57% report their organisation’s attitude is ‘somewhat’ more positive and 31% report their organisation’s attitude to be ‘significantly’ more positive.

However, digging deeper, we find employees appear to be more enthusiastic about working from home than their leaders. 60% report that employees’ perceptions of working from home are ‘significantly’ more positive compared with 34% for leaders.

Research by McKinsey & Company found: “Employers are ready to get back to significant in-person presence. Employees aren’t. The disconnect is deeper than most employers believe, and a spike in attrition and disengagement may be imminent.”

Generally speaking, while it seems that employers are keen to encourage employees to return to the office for at least some of the working week, employees are more reluctant.

To read more about CRF’s research on the changing world of work, check out our recent report: The Realities of the New Working Environment

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