UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has told younger members of the UK workforce to get back to the office and that continued working from home will harm their careers. But as the country emerges from the pandemic, how work is carried out in Britain has changed, and both government and employers need to embrace the latest revolution.
The UK has now left the EU and the workforce is noticeably smaller than it was in spring 2020. Many people have spent the best part of 18 months embracing working from home for the first time and have seen that rather than being detrimental, it has helped to improve their work/life balance without ruining the companies they work for.
HM Opposition has already stated it is their aim to introduce legislation enshrining the right to work from home in law permanently. The environmental and political benefits of a more flexible, digitally connected workforce are obvious. Even the government’s “levelling up” agenda could be boosted if the highest paid jobs can be executed remotely rather than concentrated in the already densely crowded Southeast of England.
For business leaders, while there is a perhaps understandable uneasiness about change, the genie is out of the bottle. Over the next few months, as the population heads back towards normality, this is a chance to reset and improve business performance. How much office space do you need? If remote working boosts productivity as predicted, how many roles do you need to retain? The hybrid working revolution could add some easy profit margins wins for those that embrace it effectively.
Plimsoll, the UK’s leading market analysts have surveyed business leaders from across the whole spectrum of the UK industry. On the eve of total restriction lifting across the UK, we asked the captains of some of the country’s most dynamic and successful business leaders their opinions on the hybrid working revolution:
Will you be offering flexible working on an ongoing basis?
Just over half of the companies we surveyed responded that they were planning to offer flexible working on an ongoing basis.
A further 17% were not sure of their plans or were still thinking about it.
Under a third of companies had no plans at all for hybrid working arrangements and expected their staff back in work full time.
It will be interesting to measure any divergence in performance across these groupings over the next few years.
How many days per week will you be offering?
Balancing hybrid working arrangements with business requirements is tough.
Around 48% of respondents said they were set to offer the purest hybrid option with 2-3 days working remotely.
Just under a third of respondents said they were offering one solitary day out of the office whereas 1 in 5 companies are set to scrap office attendance altogether.
Will those minimising attendance requirements make productivity and profit gains over less flexible employers?
What impact do you expect on productivity?
Almost 90% of respondents do not foresee any negative impact of flexible working on their business. It would appear employer trust their employees to work how it suits them best.
In fact, almost 1 in 5 companies expect their productivity to rise from people having more flexibility.
Only 10% of respondents are concerned about output from being outside the office.
Are the small minority right or is home working something both sides are now invested in making work?
What impact do you expect on salaries?
Nearly all respondents expected little to no impact on salary expectations from a move to hybrid working.
Almost 92% of business leaders said they expect salaries to be unaffected.
Just over 6% said they expected salaries to rise as people work from home while just 2% expected them to fall as a result.
If companies find productivity rise due to hybrid working models, will salary rise come further downstream or will employers still see it as a perk and depress wage inflation as a result?
What impact do you expect on staff numbers?
Very few respondents anticipate that working from home would impact on the number of people they employ.
Nearly 80% of companies expect the number of people employed to remain the same but their primary place of work to change slightly.
16% expect to employ more staff to cope with new challenges of the more modern workplace. Just 4% expect to lose staff as some roles become redundant.
As furlough schemes and the impact of Brexit become clearer, how will this picture change?
COVID-19 and all the disruption it has caused has brought forward decades of change in the British workplace. In late summer 2019, had someone told you that half of the office would soon spend 2-3 days working from home, most would have considered them crazy. However, business leaders are being forced to reassess what “work” means and how to manage a fragmented workforce.
Of course, not all work roles can be carried out at home and some office-based team members will forego flexibility to get back to the cut and thrust of the daily office environment. Some companies remain doggedly wedded to the idea of office-only work patterns. However, the scarcity of human resource in post-Brexit Britain means that employees now have more options and more roles to choose from. Companies that fail to move with the times could struggle to retain and attract talent.
The UK has spent the last 18 months effectively developing the remote working practices needed to make work from home a success. HM Government is facing a multitude of challenges, from its commitment to hitting “Net Zero” by 2050 in the face of more alarming warnings of climate catastrophe to the levelling up of “Red Wall” constituents. Could the work from home revolution help them achieve both and put the UK at the forefront of the new economic revolution?
Plimsoll produces a range of analytical tools that will allow you to benchmark your own performance against your key competitors in your most important markets. The hybrid work revolution is a unique opportunity to reset your business goals and calibrate your assets and resources to become a more profitable and stable business. Plimsoll can ensure you are one of the earliest adopters in your market and put you one step ahead of the rest.
For more information on Plimsoll and how we can help you, please visit www.plimsoll.co.uk