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CIPD publishes update on flexible and hybrid working practices

The CIPD has published a new report, entitled An update on flexible and hybrid working practices, which looks at the types of flexible working arrangements being offered and how this relates to:

  • Job satisfaction;
  • Productivity;
  • Work-life balance;
  • Health and wellbeing;
  • Staff retention and recruitment; and
  • Inclusion and diversity. 

The increase in flexible and hybrid working since the pandemic has involved a considerable shift in mindsets and cultural norms for organisations and their employees, many of whom were used to working traditional hours in an office environment. 

More than half (51%) of employees say they have flexible working arrangements in their current role, and this number looks set to grow. In the last six months, more than a third of organisations (37%) have seen an increase in requests for flexible working. 

The report considers how organisations should address potential challenges and risks to ensure they make a success of flexible and hybrid working in the future. The research suggests that, to be successful when implementing flexible and hybrid working practices, employers should:

  • Allow workers to request flexible working from day one of employment;
  • Raise awareness of different forms of flexible working;
  • Consult with employees when designing flexible or hybrid working practices;
  • Assess risks based on equality and inclusion;
  • Provide support and training for managers;
  • Focus on outcomes, rather than being ‘present’ in the office;
  • Invest in appropriate technology;
  • Maintain a strong focus on employee health and wellbeing; and
  • Implement plans to avoid overworking and burnout.

Flexible working
There has been an increase in employers supporting and already providing a day one right to request flexible working (FW). Currently, employees can apply for flexible working if they’ve worked continuously for the same employer for the last 26 weeks. However, in response to changing working patterns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been calls to make the right to request flexible working a day-one right.

More than a third (37%) have seen an increase in requests for FW in the last six months, and over half of organisations (56%) believe that it is important to provide flexible working as an option when advertising jobs. They see this as a key way of attracting staff and addressing skill or labour shortages. More than two-fifths of organisations (42%) say they will be more likely to grant requests for flexible working, besides working from home, compared with before the pandemic (March 2020).

Hybrid working
A fifth of workforces expect to work from home all the time, and two-fifths to regularly work from home. Since the start of the pandemic, 46% of employees have worked from home all or most of the time, while 37% have not worked from home at all. On average, organisations expect around a fifth (21%) of their workforce to work from home all the time once the crisis is over, and 40% of their workforce to work from home on a regular basis. A substantial 48% of organisations say they are concerned about inclusion risks if employees move to hybrid or homeworking, while a similar proportion (46%) are not concerned. Almost a quarter (24%) of employees who are able to work from home/in a hybrid way are concerned about being treated less favourably if they work in this way compared with colleagues always in the workplace.

Technology and training
Organisations are looking to implement a range of measures to support hybrid or homeworking in the near future. Most popular amongst those seeking to put in place additional measures are a greater investment in the quality of technology (54%), to change organisational policy to promote more remote working (53%), to provide more online guidance for line managers in managing and supporting homeworking (52%) and make a greater investment in the quantity of technology (such as more laptops) (51%). Other popular choices include more line manager training in managing and supporting homeworkers (47%), identifying where any inclusion risks may arise if employees move to hybrid working and how these can be mitigated (47%), and agreeing a minimum number of working from home days a week with employees (45%).

Health issues
Some of the top issues faced as a result of the shift to increased home or hybrid working include:

  • Increased stress or mental health problems through people working remotely (44%);
  • Difficulty in working as expected for employees who lack space or privacy when working from home (43%); and
  • Employee conflict due to the challenges of communication and team relationships while remote/homeworking (34%).