Lockdowns ended up being involuntary experiments in Hybrid Working, study finds

Source: Lenovo

Source: Lenovo

  • Now the results are coming in and it’s looking good for those who would like to work away from the office more
  • A UK study shows that 3.8 million potential part time workers are currently locked out of employment but would like to be let in
  • And the UK economy would benefit as a result

Widespread home working and therefore hybrid working (part employer premises/office and part home) may have started out as a desperate bid to ensure that the pandemic and its lockdowns didn’t wipe out the economy, but pretty soon morphed into a giant experiment on technology-enabled working practices. 

Not surprisingly (to those of us who worked from home anyway) it soon turned out that a large proportion of our work colleagues (after many conversations)  found themselves enjoying the work from home routine and thought they might want to keep it up when the pandemic was over. At the individual level they could see a number of advantages and many employers could see advantages for them and their businesses also. 

Now with the experiment drawing to a close and a large uptick in hybrid working expected in its wake, analysts of all kinds are totting up the possible macro effects and advocating policy choices to take advantage of them. 

Amongst these is the UK group Virgin Media O2 Business - the result of a merger that drew a huge cable network and one of the UK’s leading mobile operators together and now finds itself nicely armed to service fixed, mobile and cloud applications in an emerging hybrid & ‘work from home’ segment. 

It has  teamed up with the Centre for Economic and Business Research (Cebr) which has completed a study on the likely impact of hybrid working and found that  nearly half of the UK’s 8.6 million part-time employees could increase their working time if their employer would let them work remotely -  leading to 1.27 billion more hours worked annually. That in turn could  boost GDP by £48bn.  The study found that hybrid working could result in a direct increase in income for part-time workers of up to £3,600 annually.

To make the hybrid work environment produce maximum benefit though, parallel developments in both private and public sectors need to take place - in particular the digital delivery of services and the use of big data to create an environment where hybrid work could thrive and stoke up a  £76bn boost to UK GDP within the next four years with a net uplift of £236bn by 2040. 

As to who could benefit: Cebr calculates that an increase in hybrid working could bring 3.8 million people, previously unable to work, back into the workforce boosting GDP by £48bn annually as part-time workers increase their working hours. 

Essentially, the researchers identify 4 million UK citizens who, it claims, are currently ‘locked out’ from work. These include parents with children, the disabled, carers, and part time workers able to work more hours if they could work at home and remove the wasted journey time. Taken together they represent a huge potential extra workforce of 3.8 million. 

To bring them in from the cold requires changes in the way work is assigned and rostered (as seen through the pandemic, this is feasible enough) and adjustments to UK policy and regulations to give employees the right to request flexible working arrangements if and when they want them. 

Opinion surveys to back up the research has revealed that of the UK’s  8.6 million part-time workers, more than two fifths (43%) would increase their hours if they could work remotely. On average, hybrid working would enable part-time workers to work 5.1 more hours each week, with increases reported for disabled people (5 hours), parents (5.3 hours) and carers (6.8 hours). The number of extra hours worked could equate to 631,000 full-time employees entering employment and would provide a huge financial boost for some of the country’s poorest families.

By and large the report also reveals that employers and employees are pretty-much aligned on the advantages of hybrid working, having recognised the  positive aspects through the lockdowns and subsequent restrictions. The report says that employees report being more productive (36%), more in control of their work (34%), feel trusted (26%) and empowered (27%) with 20% of workers less distracted when working at home. Most of all,  two thirds (69%) believe the changes to working policies driven by Covid-19 will be made permanent and they anticipate settling on a  better work-life balance with working remotely freeing up more time to see family, friends and pursue hobbies.

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