Time for hybrid working

After a (mostly) sunny Easter Bank Holiday weekend, the question of whether to return to the office or not has been looming large in many people’s minds. Whilst some have no option other than to visit the workplace, others have over the past few years experienced a working from home regime that they may not previously have thought possible.

Undoubtedly, whether it is more productive to work from home or business premises will depend on the nature and set-up of the organisation. Put bluntly, there are some roles which simply cannot be carried out away from the normal place of work. Those aside, it appears that the idea of hybrid working may be gaining more traction than was the case pre-pandemic.

One study reported in Business Leader in February 2022 revealed that 57% of office workers would prefer a hybrid working pattern. Of the rest, just 5% wanted to work exclusively from home with 38% looking to work solely in the office. That picture varied across businesses, with those working for smaller companies more likely to look towards office-based working than those working for larger organisations.

Interestingly an Office for National Statistics (ONS) report based on the period from 16th to 27th March 2022 showed that in the period in question 57% of working adults worked exclusively from their business premises. In the same period 12% worked only from home, with the rest experiencing a hybrid working pattern.

Whether that working from home pattern changes in response to increased fuel prices remains to be seen. Certainly, anecdotally people are looking to home working as a way of saving commuting costs. However, that saving has to be offset by a potential increase in home fuel bills.

For businesses which are happy to enable hybrid working, the challenge has to be to do so in a cost effective way. There is little point in enabling people to work from home if this results in a cost increase for the business which then has a negative impact on sales. As FSB Bational Chair, Martin McTague, commented recently: “the cost of living crisis starts with a cost of doing business crisis.”

Luckily there are cost saving options available for businesses. For example, businesses may well find that holding a conference call can be more time-effective than face to face meetings. With a conference call able to accommodate any number of participants, it can be far easier to invite participants who can actively contribute to any discussion. Add in the cumulative time saving from not having to travel to the meeting, even if that time of travel is just across the office, and conference calls can prove their worth.

Then there is the question of call costs. Calls across a single VoIP system can be free. Setting up not only the business but also home workers on the same system can therefore encourage open dialogue whilst keeping costs down. And for those who are worried that customer care might suffer if some individuals work from home, the option of a robust company switchboard enables calls to be routed across teams or divisions no matter where an individual is situated.

Whether hybrid working is here to stay remains to be seen. But if the current indications are anything to go by, this is one working practice which may be changing the face of work as we previously knew it.

Written by Alison