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The Future of Work: Embracing the Hybrid and Remote Working Revolution in the UK

By 13 May 2024 No Comments

The landscape of work in the UK, as well as worldwide, is undergoing a significant transformation, driven by the increasing adoption of remote and hybrid work models. Yet a lot of firms in the financial advisory space are still resisting to truly embrace this way of working. We’d argue that, in today’s world, in order to attract talent into your organisations and retain it, firms need to embrace this way of working. Here are a few statistics worth noting:

  • According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) 44% of UK workers worked remotely in 2023 (16% worked exclusively from home and 28% adopted a hybrid work model). This is compared to 4.7% of UK employees who worked from home prior to COVID-19 (WISERD).
  • Over half of UK employers offer remote work options, with 78% of remote workers reporting an improved work-life balance (ONS).
  • Hybrid working statistics reveal that 40% of UK employers provide this model.
  • 54% of the 25-34 year-old age group are working remotely.
  • Notable companies like HSBC and Lloyds Banking Group have downsized office spaces significantly in response to the remote work trend.
  • Gartner predicts that 39% of global knowledge workers will adopt a hybrid work model by the end of 2023, indicating a continued shift towards flexible work arrangements.

This shift, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has presented a complex array of opportunities and challenges for both employers and employees, further influenced by recent legislative changes.

What’s in it for Employers?

Reported benefits to employers include:

  1. Increased Productivity: Many employers report enhanced productivity as remote work allows employees to focus on their tasks without the distractions of an office environment and to work during their most productive hours.
  2. Cost Savings: Reduced need for office space and associated expenses can lead to significant cost savings.
  3. Talent Pool Expansion: Employers can recruit from a wider geographic area, accessing a broader talent pool.
  4. Employee Retention: Offering flexible working arrangements can improve job satisfaction and work-life balance, leading to higher employee retention rates.
  5. Employee Wellbeing: Flexible working arrangements can lead to improved employee wellbeing, potentially reducing sick leave and turnover.
  6. Business Continuity: A remote workforce can maintain productivity during disruptions like natural disasters, pandemics, or other emergencies.
  7. Scalability: Remote work provides flexibility for business growth without needing additional physical office space.
  8. Environmental Impact: Reduced commuting contributes to lower carbon emissions and supports the organisation’s environmental sustainability goals.

The ONS records the following benefits for businesses adopting working from home:

  • Improved staff wellbeing (60%)
  • Reduced overheads (43%)
  • Increased productivity (41%)
  • Reduced carbon emissions (25%)
  • Ability to recruit from a wider geographical pool in the UK (16%)
  • Ability to better match jobs to skills (13%)
  • Reduced sickness levels (12%)
  • Ability to recruit from a wider geographical pool internationally (10%)
  • Reduced wage bill (3%)

Challenges for Employers

On the flip side, reported challenges for employers include:

  1. Management and Oversight: Remote work can make it more challenging to manage teams and monitor performance effectively. Ensuring communication and collaboration among remote teams can be challenging too. To this end, employers must invest in technology and training to facilitate effective remote working.
  2. Collaboration and Innovation: There’s a potential reduction in spontaneous (‘at the water cooler’) collaboration and innovation that often occurs in a shared physical space.
  3. Cybersecurity Risks: The increase in remote work has heightened the risk of cybersecurity breaches. Employers must implement robust security protocols and educate employees on best practices.
  4. Legal Compliance: Employers must navigate the complexities of employment law, particularly with the new legislation allowing employees to request flexible working from day one.
  5. Maintaining Company Culture: Fostering a strong company culture is more complex when employees are dispersed. Employers need to find innovative ways to build and maintain a cohesive culture.

What’s in it for Employees?

Employee benefits include:

  1. Work-Life Balance: Employees have greater control over their work-life balance, which can lead to higher job satisfaction.
  2. Reduced Commuting: Eliminating the commute saves time and money, and can reduce stress.
  3. Flexible Work Environment: Employees can create a work environment that suits their personal preferences and needs.
  4. Inclusivity: Remote work can be more inclusive for individuals with disabilities or with care responsibilities or those living in remote areas.
  5. Autonomy: Remote work often comes with increased autonomy, allowing employees to work in ways that best suit their productivity styles.

The ONS records the following benefits to employees working from home:

  • Improved work life balance (78%)
  • Fewer distractions (53%)
  • Quicker to complete work (52%)
  • Improved wellbeing (47%)
  • Easier to think of new ideas (16%)
  • Easier to work with others (12%)
  • More job opportunities (7%)

Challenges for Employees

On the flip side there are some challenges. These include:

  1. Isolation: Working remotely can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection from colleagues.
  2. Work-Life Boundaries: It can be difficult to establish clear boundaries between work and personal life, leading to burnout.
  3. Career Progression: There is evidence that remote workers may have fewer opportunities for career advancement.
  4. Job Security: Changes in legislation have increased protection against redundancy for pregnant employees, but job security remains a concern for remote workers.

Favourite day to work from home?

According to the ONS in May 2022 Tuesday was the most popular day chosen to work from home. On a Monday to Friday schedule, Monday was the least popular day chosen to work from home. On a full week, the least amount of people chose to work Saturdays from home.

Changes in UK law

Recent legislative changes in the UK have aimed to support the shift towards more flexible working arrangements. The Employment Rights (Flexible Working) Act 2023 has expanded rights for employees around flexible working, including the ability to make two requests a year for flexible working and a reduced deadline for employers to respond to these requests. Additionally, the Carer’s Leave Act 2023 provides employees with caring responsibilities up to a week of unpaid leave each year. The right to disconnect from work and work-related communications, such as emails, during non-work hours remains unaddressed in current UK legislation.

In April 2021, the Irish government published a Code of Practice granting all employees a right to disconnect. The voluntary Code includes three main clauses:

  • The right of an employee to not have to routinely perform work outside their normal working hours.
  • The right not to be penalised for refusing to attend to work matters outside of normal working hours.
  • The duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect (for example, by not routinely emailing or calling outside normal working hours).

Similarly, France and Portugal have legislated to recognise an employee’s right to disconnect.

Across the pond

“The days of full-time employees who sit in your building are fading fast. Traditional structures are becoming obsolete as the workforce shifts in its composition, demands, and expectations. To capitalize, organizations need to be proactive in understanding how work will be done in the future and what the workforce and workplace should look like”. –  Deloitte

According to a US survey workplace flexibility is highly valued by workers, ranking second only to salary, with hybrid work schedules allowing individuals to balance work and personal priorities effectively. The importance of family time is highlighted in the survey with 73% of U.S. adults considering it a crucial aspect of their lives.

Workplace flexibility not only benefits individuals but also contributes to workplace diversity and attracting women and younger generations seeking flexible work arrangements.

Despite the benefits, the transition to hybrid work schedules can be challenging, with concerns about productivity and communication in remote work settings.

Potential banana skin

It’s ironic given the above data from the ONS that they find themselves in a dispute with their own staff. A recent BBC news story reported that 1,000 ONS staff are refusing to comply with an instruction to spend two days a week in their offices. A cautionary tale for those changing their working from home policies.

It is worth noting here too the recent case of Wilson vs. the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Wilson suffered a significant tribunal defeat in her quest to force her employer to let her work entirely from home.

The takeaway here is that managing flexible working applications as appropriate is important, and that each request for flexible working should be considered on its own merits and well documented.

Conclusion

For the future of working from home in the UK, a hybrid model seems to be the most likely option, which involves both office and remote work. Statistics show that a large part of the workforce likes this model, which indicates more flexibility and possible changes in the UK’s employment scene. This trend is backed up by data that shows that, by 2024, almost 60% of UK workers prefer a hybrid working setup over being fully remote. Employers also see the benefits of this model, such as better staff wellbeing and lower costs, which may result in a more long-term adoption of hybrid work methods. The development of work-from-home setups will keep affecting the UK’s labour market, spending habits, and overall economic structure.

However, hybrid and remote working models also have some major issues that need to be carefully thought about and addressed. Both employers and employees have to adjust to this new situation, making sure that the benefits are optimised while reducing the possible drawbacks. The recent updates in UK law show a dedication to supporting flexible working setups, which will probably keep changing as the nature of work changes.

Questions for you

Does your organisation have a current hybrid/remote working policy? Maybe it’s a good time to look into this. 😉


The Future of Hybrid Working – Gartner

“75% of knowledge workers say their expectations for working flexibly have increased”

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