Employers have yet to adapt to the flexible working revolution sweeping through the United Kingdom’s offices, new research has shown.
More than 1,000 office workers across the UK were surveyed in August to understand how well-prepared employees and organisations felt for the widespread return to the workplace this Northern Hemisphere autumn.
The workers were also asked about how flexible working practices – where staff time is split between working from home and from the office – were playing out.
Just 22 percent of participants reported that their offices had been redesigned to support hybrid working, while only seven percent had received training in managing or participating in hybrid meetings – indicating a training gap for effective hybrid working and hybrid meeting management.
While most participants reported flexible working patterns at their workplace, only 31 percent were aware of a formal flexi-hours policy in their organisation, and just 21% knew of a formal hybrid working policy.
Significant disruption and change in workplaces
The research raises the prospect of significant disruption and change in UK workplaces in the coming months as employers adapt to the biggest shake-up of office work in decades, with the findings being a part of a major research project being undertaken by the Leeds University Business School, based in the north of England.
Dr Matthew Davis of Leeds University said: “As Covid-19 social-distancing restrictions have lifted, many of us are working flexibly; splitting our time [between] the office and at home.
“But this survey shows that employers are feeling their way through these changes – the majority are developing systems and practices as they go along rather than taking a planned, systematic approach. This is likely to lead to more disruption and change as employers establish what works and what doesn’t.”
The Leeds research also underlined the unpopularity of ‘hot desking’, where office workers share desks. More than 80 percent of interviewees said that they wanted to have an assigned desk rather than sharing with others.
“It’s well known that hot desking isn’t particularly popular, but the argument has previously been made that employees will grow to like hot desking given more time. Our survey suggests this is not the case – 43 percent of those we spoke to were already in workplaces where hot desking was used and still didn’t like it,” Dr Davis said.
Employers should off-set loss of personal space
“This shows the need for change-management and selling the vision of what hybrid workplaces provide to off-set loss of personal space.”
Other key findings included office workers expressing a preference for working more often from the office (average of 2.7 days per week) than from home (average of 2.1 days per week).
When asked about the prospect of working in the office, 33 percent of respondents said they never wanted to work in the office, 37 percent said that they wanted to work there five days a week, while 30 percent wished for some level of a hybrid work pattern (between one and four days a week from home).
Twenty-eight percent of workers said they never, or only occasionally, had access to a quiet workspace at home, with 36 percent not having a dedicated workspace and instead working from dining tables, living spaces or even their beds.
Dr Davis said that the findings indicated the complexity of trying to manage the move to flexible working, and trying to accommodate employees’ competing expectations about work.