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@CIPD stresses the need for employers to make hybrid working a success rather than rushing to return staff to workplaces and previous ways of working

The productivity benefits of homeworking appear to have increased during the pandemic, with employers now more likely to say that the shift to homeworking has boosted productivity (33%) than they were in June 2020 (28%). This is according to new research by the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, based on a survey of 2,000 employers and in-depth interviews with seven organisations in different sectors.

The survey found employers are also less likely to say that increased homeworking has decreased productivity (23%) compared to last summer (28%), suggesting employers have had a significant net productivity benefit over the period. 38% of employers say productivity has stayed the same (unchanged from June 2020). Overall, more than two thirds (71%) of employers say that the increase in homeworking has either boosted or has made no difference to productivity. 

Perceptions of productivity differed between organisations that had offered line manager training in managing remote workers and those that hadn’t. Of those employers who offered such training, 43% said productivity had increased during homeworking, compared to only 29% that hadn’t offered training. 

The findings are part of a new CIPD report exploring how organisations can learn from ways of working during the Coronavirus pandemic to make hybrid working (a mixture of working at home and in the workplace) a success. Two-thirds (63%) of employers surveyed report that they plan to introduce or expand the use of hybrid working to some degree, highlighting the need for organisations to take a strategic approach to homeworking to harness its benefits and improve working lives post-pandemic.

In its report, the CIPD stresses the need for employers to look at flexible options beyond homeworking, recognising that not all roles can be done from home. The CIPD is calling for organisations and the government to make the right to request flexible working a day-one right for all employees through its #FlexFrom1st campaign, to help boost the number of people using a variety of flexible working arrangements.

Some employers are considering how to improve flexibility of hours, with almost half (48%) saying they plan to expand the use of flexi-time - altering workday start and finish times – to some degree. Fairness was cited as a key reason for this, according to 45% of employers, who said employees who can’t work from home should still be able to benefit from flexible working arrangements. 

Claire McCartney, Senior Policy Adviser for Resourcing and Inclusion at the CIPD, comments:

“The pandemic has shown that ways of working that previously seemed impossible are actually possible. Organisations should take stock and carefully consider how to make hybrid working a success, rather than rushing people back to their workplace when there are clearly productivity benefits to homeworking.

“To make hybrid working a success in the long-term, employers need to implement a strategy that focuses on wellbeing, communication and collaboration to recognise people’s individual preferences. They must also provide appropriate training and support for managers, so they have the tools needed to support employees to work remotely. Organisations will need to be adaptable and take a tailored approach based on individual choice and need in order to maximise the benefits and minimise the challenges of hybrid working.

“It’s encouraging to hear some organisations are looking at other forms of flexible working, as we know that remote working isn’t an option for everyone. Those who cannot work from home should still be able to benefit from having more of a choice and a say in when and how they work. The CIPD’s #FlexFrom1st campaign calls on organisations and government to make flexible working requests a day-one right to boost the number of employees using flexible arrangements, giving more opportunity and choice to all.”

The report sets out seven strategies to make hybrid working a success:

  • Develop the skills and culture needed for open conversations about wellbeing
  • Encourage boundary-setting and routines to improve wellbeing and prevent overwork
  • Ensure effective co-ordination of tasks and task-related communication
  • Pay special attention to creativity, brainstorming and problem-solving tasks
  • Promote networking and relationship building across the organisation
  • Organise support networks to compensate for the loss of informal/’on the job’ learning for those who are new to the organisation or role

While the report shows progress has been made on flexibility of location, it’s clear there is more to do to improve flexibility in hours for all employees. CIPD research shows there is a significant gap between the arrangements employees currently use compared to those that they would use if offered. Part-time hours (4 days or less) are currently used by 19% of workers, yet desired by 28%. In addition, just 3% of employees said they currently use compressed hours (working full-time hours in fewer days), while 19% would use this arrangement if available. To address this, organisations should look at job design, as well as analysing tasks across teams and at individual level to see where greater flexibility could be built in. 

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