There’s No (Work) Place Like Home: Recent Trends in Hybrid Working

Dr. Nicola Pritchard, Daniel Walsh

In the evolving landscape of hybrid work, both individuals and organizations find themselves either embracing working from home or navigating the schedule of Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in the office. The rising popularity of remote working has prompted inquiries into its impact on personal and business productivity. As the workforce adapts, a critical question arises: can society seamlessly return to its pre-pandemic routines or are these changes here to stay? In a workplace marked by differing opinions, it’s crucial for both perspectives to embrace each other in order to move forward. By examining the intricate balance between flexibility and established norms, we uncover the complexities that arise as work transcends traditional office spaces. This prompts a thorough exploration of the multifaceted challenges and opportunities inherent to the domain of hybrid work.

Current Trends

There has long been a shift towards hybrid working, however this was catalysed by the pandemic. The most recent trends are summarized below:

Contrasting Perspectives

Despite receiving significant attention during the pandemic, the debate surrounding hybrid working and the flexibility it brings remains ongoing. For example, EY recently announced they will start monitoring office attendance using turnstile data, while a recent viral TikTok forced a manager to apologize for criticizing a colleague who skipped an early morning meeting for a fitness class. Atlassian has adopted a “Team Anywhere” policy which allows employees to choose between remote, in-person or hybrid work5, whilst an FCA employee recently took the organization to court over not being allowed to work from home full-time. The court ruled in favour of the FCA, stating that the office was a better environment for “rapid discussion” and “non-verbal communication”.

These are recent examples of the differing views on hybrid working, underscoring the ongoing challenges faced by employees and employers in the post-pandemic era.

Pros of Remote Working:

  1. Increased Productivity: Atlassian’s research suggests that 92% of their employees find distributed work to be more productive and that the flexibility allows employees to choose the environment where they can perform at their best.
  2.  Cost Savings: Atlassian mentions saving money on real estate due to reduced office space requirements; a significant benefit for companies looking to optimize costs.
  3.  Time Savings: Remote workers save time that would have been spent commuting. The data shows Atlassian saves 10 days a year, contributing to increased work-life balance.
  4. Global Talent Pool: Remote work allows companies to tap into a global talent pool, as demonstrated by Atlassian’s transition from 12 locations to over 10,000 remote staff.

Cons of Remote Working:

  1. Communication Challenges: The FCA case emphasizes the importance of in-person communication in certain work contexts. It’s argued that technology may not be well-suited to the fast-paced interplay of exchanges that occur in planning meetings or training events.
  2. Team Dynamics: Face-to-face interactions are crucial for building and maintaining strong team dynamics. The judgement points out the limitation in observing and responding to non-verbal cues, which are essential for effective collaboration.
  3. Managerial Responsibilities: The FCA case highlights concerns about the negative impact of remote work on managerial responsibilities. The line manager cited the potential negative impact on the department, emphasizing the importance of face-to-face training sessions and meetings.
  4. Legal and Contractual Limitations: In England and Wales, employees have no right to demand exclusive remote work unless specified in their contract. Employers are required to consider requests, but can refuse them for valid reasons.

The hybrid working debate is multifaceted, with both advantages and disadvantages. Atlassian are embracing a distributed workforce model, whereas the FCA case underscores the challenges of remote work in specific professional settings. As these examples suggest, the future of work may require a nuanced approach, considering the nature of the work, industry norms, and individual preferences as the landscape evolves.

There is a possibility that the financial sector may be less flexible due to a variety of reasons, such as the importance of working within a secure network, and the sensitivity of data. A variety of financial firms are trying to shift the spectrum back towards office-based working, with many targeting employees returning for three days per week, albeit the range of strategies to execute this varies greatly. Some have taken a softer approach, enticing employees back with free parking or breakfasts, while others are using a hard-line approach and mandating a minimum number of days in the office per week, threatening disciplinary action if this is not met. Firms must carry out cultural assessments to determine where they sit within this spectrum and the best execution strategy for them to achieve their intended home/office work balance.

As we navigate the contemporary work environment, it’s imperative to ask whether your company is prepared to navigate the evolving landscape. Operationally, efficiency is paramount, and there is evidence to suggest that having an adaptable operating model that supports hybrid work ensures not only productivity but also employee satisfaction. In a competitive talent market, being clear on company culture and preferred ways of working becomes a strategic advantage. The ability to attract and retain top talent hinges on aligning organizational values with individual aspirations. The synergy between a forward-thinking strategy, a vibrant company culture, and an efficient operating model paves the way for sustained success in the ever-changing world of work. Through our experience engaging with many organizations at different stages on their journey, Alpha are well-positioned to help you understand, define and implement the operating model that works best for your business and your employees.

About the Authors

Dr. Nicola Pritchard

Nicola is a Manager at Alpha FMC with a varied background encompassing academic research, education, the public sector, and financial services. With over 8 years of expertise in financial services, Nicola has navigated a number of roles focused on project and program management across various change initiatives. As part of Nicola's previous role as Operations Program Manager, Nicola managed the merger of five companies and the substantial internal and external change associated with it. Most recently, Nicola has supported the TUPE transfer for multiple BPO programmes, functioning as the people workstream lead and SME. Nicola is a passionate advocate for the people element of change projects and the positive impacts well-managed change can have on organizational culture and employee sentiment.

Daniel Walsh

Daniel is an Analyst with over a years' experience working in Alpha’s Life, Pension and Retail Investment team. Daniel has experience working in the project management office of a large-scale remediation project, whereby Daniel designed the implementation phase of the project training and integrating new team members as the project team doubled in size. Furthermore, Daniel has experience defining people requirements for a digital asset start-up preparing to go live in addition to his experience supporting a savings and life insurance provider undertaking a resourcing analysis exercise for their change portfolio. Daniel is a graduate of the University of Cambridge and is Prince2 Agile certified.