Homeworking became the norm in 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic forced us out of offices and workplaces.
According to data from the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research (WISERD), just 5.7% of people worked exclusively from home in January/February 2020. By April 2020, this figure was an astounding 43.1%.
Out of the boom in homeworking has come the birth of so-called “hybrid working”, in which employers have allowed employees to choose how much time they spend between the office and at home to carry out their roles.
However, while the flexibility was initially an attractive proposition for workers, there is a compelling argument to be made that hybrid working is actually detrimental, both to your business and your employees.
That means, if you have a hybrid-working arrangement in your business, it could actually be destroying your company’s performance and your employees’ careers. Here’s why.
Productivity had been on the rise – but research suggests it may have since fallen
When remote working first became the norm, many businesses reported an increase in staff productivity.
However, this honeymoon period appears to be over. Indeed, according to a study described in the Financial Times, productivity of homeworkers at one large Asian tech company fell by up to a fifth.
Even though these individuals were working longer hours, constant virtual meetings made actually completing tasks a serious issue.
Subsequent studies in Japan and a smaller one in Cambridge produced similar results, finding that employees tended to spend less time on paid work at home than they would in the office.
So, even though it may appear to be working, you need to keep a careful eye on your business output. Your hybrid-working arrangement could actually be reducing the amount of work your employees are able to complete on a day-to-day basis.
Employees can benefit from the social side of the workplace
Another huge downside of hybrid working is the loss of the social side of the workplace.
Without being in a physical workplace, employees can’t form relationships with their colleagues as easily. This could have two negative effects on your work culture:
- Your employees don’t know each other very well, preventing them from working as collaboratively as they potentially could.
- Employee mental wellbeing declines from the lack of social interaction.
Of course, hybrid working does arguably allow for such social interaction. For those who are in the office a couple of days a week, this may be sufficient to help them form these bonds.
Meanwhile, for those who live further afield, you can organise regular meetups for these workers to come and spend time with their colleagues.
But it’s the casual, “water cooler” conversations that are lost when workers aren’t mingling together in the office every day.
This prevents them from building friendships with like-minded colleagues or venting frustration about their work in an informal setting.
In turn, this could negatively affect their ability to perform their role to the highest standard.
Homeworking could slow employees’ career progression
A huge oversight of hybrid working is the slowing of employees’ career progression if they aren’t present in the office, too.
According to a survey by management consultancy Korn Ferry, published by FTAdviser, 60% of respondents said they were concerned that their career advancement would be restricted by homeworking.
Even more worryingly, the CFA Institute’s Future of Work in Investment Management study revealed that managers were assuming that homeworkers were less productive than office-based employees – even if the data contradicted this opinion.
For your employees, this could be the difference between them progressing and climbing to the next stages of their careers versus finding themselves stuck in their roles.
Having a hybrid-working policy means ensuring equal opportunity for staff, even for those performing their functions from a distance.
It also means being mindful of fairly judging the performance of remote workers, not seeing their lack of physical presence as an indicator of their actual output.
If you want to offer hybrid working as a possibility in your business, you’ll need to make sure you have frameworks in place that give employees the chance to progress personally, as well as serve the business.
Hybrid working is still a great employee benefit
Despite the drawbacks, hybrid working can still be a fantastic employee benefit to offer in your business.
Research by the International Workplace Group (IWG) found that 72% of office workers would choose long-term flexibility in their place of work over extra money.
Even more drastically, two-thirds of respondents said they wouldn’t even apply for a new job unless it offered hybrid working as an option.
That means a hybrid-working arrangement could be an important avenue to attracting and retaining the best talent that will help to take your business to the next level.
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