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1 in 3 employers planning to bring staff back to the office full time, our research finds

  • One third of employers expect staff to return to the office every day
  • 28% say planning a return to the workplace is their number one concern
  • 58% of businesses have already brought staff back or are planning to do so by the end of September

Despite hybrid working being hailed as the future of work, one in three employers (34%) are planning to have employees return to the office every day post-pandemic, according to our research.

Of the 52% that do intend to adopt some form of hybrid model, over half (55%) expect employees to work from the office three days per week.

The survey, which was conducted with 448 business leaders between July and August 2021, also found that only 14% of employers plan to offer complete flexibility going forward, despite the successes many have reportedly had with remote working.

The fact that just over half of employers are considering hybrid working is particularly interesting given that other studies have shown this to be hugely popular amongst employees. Indeed, Accenture found that 83% of workers want to go hybrid after the pandemic, and our own poll earlier this year revealed that 20% of workers would quit if they couldn’t work from home.

This signals a clear discrepancy between what businesses are planning and what employees want, which is perhaps unsurprising given our finding that over a third (34%) of organisations still haven’t consulted staff about their preferences, something experts warn may be a critical oversight.

For example, our survey found that Wednesday is the day people most want to work from the office, while Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday emerged as the most popular combination for office working (11%).

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James Tamm, Director of Legal Services at Ellis Whittam, says that while it’s too early for most to say what form of working is their best long-term bet, employers must at this point ensure regular dialogue with their employees.

He advises: “Managers should engage teams in planning processes, which will help to ensure potential issues and grievances are identified early on.”

However, despite concerns that a lack of consultation around return to work plans may lead to friction later down the line, our research revealed that organisations aren’t overly worried about refusals to return to work and other safety-related disputes, with only 4% of employers predicting that this will be their biggest business disruptor over the next few months.

Instead, employers are primarily concerned about staff absence (38%) and planning the return to the workplace and finding solutions that keep everyone happy (28%).

Meanwhile, when asked whether they would implement productivity measurements to understand performance at home versus performance the workplace, over half (51%) of employers don’t feel this is needed, suggesting a degree of trust in their staff. Just 15% are currently monitoring the impact of location on performance, while a quarter (25%) say they lack the technology to do this.

Finally, in terms of timescales, 29% of organisations have already brought everybody back to the workplace, and a further 29% are planning to do so by the end of September. 31% say they are still working this out.

James Tamm said: “The disparity between fully office-based and hybrid working policies will create very different company cultures and operational challenges, so this isn’t a decision that businesses should take lightly. I’d highly encourage employers to engage with their employees to find the best way forward, particularly if you’re contemplating hybrid working as this will likely involve a contractual change and therefore require agreement.”

“Time is of the essence as employees will soon be demanding answers either way. Given the planning and consultation involved in making changes to working arrangements, all businesses considering making hybrid working part of their normal working pattern must act now.”

Need help putting your post-pandemic plans into motion?

For many organisations, hybrid working is a largely untested area, and there are many practical, legal and HR implications to consider. 

From unlimited advice to help adjusting your contracts and policies, Ellis Whittam’s Employment Law and HR experts can help you to maintain productivity, minimise employee issues and meet your obligations to give you complete peace of mind.

For support, call 0345 226 8393 or request your free consultation using the button below.

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