Combatting Economic Uncertainty with a Hybrid Workforce
A global shift towards hybrid working has brought about positive transformation for companies, employees, and their local communities. But with an economic slowdown on the horizon, many business leaders have arrived at the same conclusion: it’s time for a shift in strategy.
Hybrid working – the modern-day trend where employees divide their working hours between their home and the office – may have existed before the pandemic, but it’s during the past two years that the model has truly taken off.
According to a 2022 survey by TravelPerk, more than three quarters of businesses have now embraced hybrid working (or some form of it). Going into the office five days a week is no longer the norm, and employees appear to have taken advantage of the added freedoms, productivity, and responsibility this brings.
Yet, the potential benefits of hybrid working extend beyond that of the employee. In fact, a recent impact study from IWG and Arup suggested the rise in people part-working from home, part-working in an office could generate up to £327million a year for rural and suburban economies in the UK – as workers say goodbye to their city-centre spending habits and instead support local.
And it’s the same story elsewhere in the world: in Germany, IWG expects up to 38,500 full-time workers to relocate away from urban centres and, in the US, the figure is almost 200,000 – with the potential to inject up to $1.3billion in areas close to where people now live and work.
Here, we take a look at the reasons why hybrid working is not only essential for our post-pandemic economic recovery – but can also help organizations become more agile and resilient to future unknowns.
A boost for productivity, sustainability, and talent
One of the big successes of hybrid working has been the productivity gains experienced by employees who no longer have to spend valuable time commuting to and from an office five days a week. Studies have shown that by splitting your time between home and an office, employee productivity has increased by 2%. That may not sound like a lot – but it has equated to more than £150million in Gross Value Added (GVA) for businesses in the UK.
In the US, meanwhile, a similar study carried out by Stanford over a period of nine months found productivity increased by as much as 13%. This was attributed to staff being able to carry out more calls per minute working in a quieter, more convenient environment and working more minutes per shift because they were taking less breaks and sick days. The same study also suggested hybrid working has led to improved work satisfaction, with attrition rates down by as much as 50%.
Other benefits of hybrid working include being able to recruit from a wider talent pool, with businesses no longer shackled by regional restraints, and being able to work more sustainably. To reach a city-centre company headquarters, a typical UK worker commutes for 58 minutes – with 67% travelling by car. In the US, typical commutes are 55 minutes while, in Germany, more than 27% of workers commute for more than an hour per day.
Cutting out the collective carbon footprint of former city-centre commuters has already had – and will continue to have – huge implications for our planet. While hybrid working still involves the occasional meeting at a company’s headquarters, it’s helped remove the need for a daily journey that was previously so ingrained in our traditional working patterns.
Hybrid working – in numbers:
- According to a survey of 133 executives by PwC, 83% of employers say that a shift to remote work has been productive for them.
- McKinsey reports that 58% of executives think that remote work has improved individual employee productivity. 54% said that it had improved workplace diversity and inclusion, 45% that employee engagement had increased, and 36% reported that customer satisfaction had improved.
- Research by Accenture shows 63% of high-growth organizations have enabled productivity anywhere workforce models.
- On the other hand, 69% of negative or no-growth companies are still focused on where people are going to physically work (either onsite or remote, rather than a hybrid model).
- According to >The Economist, 36% feel more focused when they work from home. 28% feel less focused.
- A PwC report shows that if companies in the Netherlands would make just one day remote, the net benefit would be €3.9 billion annually ($4.5 billion), mainly thanks to cost savings.
Of course, hybrid working isn’t without its challenges. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. What works for one organization is unlikely to work for another – and that goes for employees, too.
Workforces are diverse, they’re varied, and they’re comprised of individuals who have different wants and needs. Some want to work from home, others in an office, and its business leaders who are burdened with the unenviable task of devising a hybrid strategy that works for all parties.
“How do we preserve our culture?” The VP of a leading US clothing company recently asked during a virtual roundtable event hosted by Meet the Boss.
“How do you take the best of in-person and the best of remote and bring it together in hybrid?”
“People join because they have a connection to our brands, or our values – and those were easy, in-person activation moments.”
“But since we have moved to a remote environment, with some people hired in fully remote positions, the question is how do we make the employee experience tangible?”
It’s a question many business leaders have grappled with as we continue to emerge from the pandemic, and more and more people open up to the idea of returning to the office – at least on a part-time basis.
Nobody knows for sure what the next six months will look like but one thing all executives appear to agree on is that hybrid working is here to stay. The world of work we knew before the pandemic is gone – and so the need for a flexible, hybrid working strategy is imperative.
Done right and not only will you ensure your organization’s continued survival, you will improve your employees’ well-being, improve their work-life balance, increase productivity, maintain human connections and contribute towards the future health of our economy, society and planet.
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