Hybrid Working – has the pendulum swung inexorably towards a fundamental shift in workplace culture and should we be concerned?

17th June 2022

By David Arden

 

New research from King’s College London’s Policy Institute and Business School has found that twice as many Londoners are now working from home as before the pandemic. According to their studies, three quarters of Londoners worked from home at least one day a week and this represents a marked shift from pre-pandemic in which it is believed that less than half those numbers were working from home.

The researchers surveyed more than 2,000 people aged sixteen or over with a regular workplace in London, including those that live outside the city and commute in for work.

Their findings suggest hybrid working is here to stay and could have a profound impact on the future of London’s economy.  Most people I speak to now believe this represents the ‘new normal’ and is a shift in perception of how we view the workplace and working culture. The survey also found that almost three-quarters of London workers think they’re never going back to working five days in the office.

And it’s not just here in the UK, Ladders, a career website for jobs in the United States have completed their own research and they believe a staggering 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by end of next year.

Why do people want to work from home?

For most people this will likely reflect the desire to avoid the commute as the main reason for wanting to work from home, and with the spiralling cost of fuel, ongoing rail chaos and if, like me, you live within a mile radius of Apex corner, it would seem a reasonably justified sentiment.

People also find it easier to balance other personal responsibilities when at home, and many also find they can be more creative and less distracted at home even if this may seem counter-intuitive to the old-guard, but this obviously isn’t a one size fits all and some roles clearly can never be performed from home.

However, most people do not want to work from home all the time, hence the flexible approach of hybrid working is starting to become introduced more generally as an almost compromise position and even forms part of the overall benefits package in many advertised roles.  Looking at the first page of our online jobs board today, half of the vacancies are advertised as being either hybrid or home based, so the trend seen nationally, is being reflected in our community.

Will this negatively affect our work?

There isn’t a simple answer to this, in general, people will suggest they perform well when working from home, and this may well be the case. For most organisations, this could be measured in terms of an individual’s performance both at home and in the office. But there is something about connecting to one another which simply is best done face to face. Humans are hard wired for social interaction and visual cues like a shift in body language, often a critical cue when understanding someone’s viewpoint is simply lost if not in person.

Additionally, the ability to detach from work when your office is in your home is that much more difficult than the physical travel to and from the workplace. Creativity is also likely to be more challenging, you just cannot develop innovative ideas as a team as effectively through a Zoom call than around the table.

Finally, there is currently insufficient evidence about whether working from home has either a positive or negative impact on quality of life and this will be dependent on several factors including financial, social and economic, however, the pandemic has shifted the dial in terms of working culture, and it is likely hybrid working is here to stay.