Employers expect to retain the balance of power in decisions about post-pandemic hybrid working, according to CBI Economics survey data published last week (Tuesday 20 July), but employee wellbeing will be at the heart of those decisions. 

The Revolution of Work survey, conducted by CBI Economics and commissioned by University of Leeds innovation hub Nexus, revealed that 70% of UK businesses expect the future management of work-from-home and office-based working to be governed by organisational policy. But more than half (58%) of those businesses also expected their employees to play a key role. 

Dr Martin Stow, Nexus Director, said: 

“The report shows that whilst UK businesses are clearly planning to embrace hybrid working in the long term, there is still a place for office space and UK businesses have a clear vision about the way offices will be used in the future: as a focus for team-building and strategy days and vital innovation planning. 

“Half the companies surveyed felt that remote and hybrid working had made it harder to be innovative, with a majority observing a negative impact on creative planning sessions and those vital “water cooler” moments, when ideas are shared and new relationships formed, which can be the key to network expansion and business growth. UK business owners will be even more focused on the social and networking benefits of future office space and will prioritise workplaces which are designed to create the best environments to deliver collaborative working and shared ideas.” 

Digital healthcare start-up, Itecho Health, which is based at Nexus, features in the report, describing the pros and cons of remote working during lockdown. The company has pioneered a “virtual clinic” platform to monitor patients with long-term health conditions, which aims to reduce waiting list times and relieve pressure on the NHS. 

Founder and former NHS consultant Dr Adrian Brown said: 

“The collaboration of academics, clinicians and tech specialists required to bring the project together successfully, may have been more difficult had we not already had relationship foundations in place. 

“But with those relationships fostered, our project team was able to meet virtually more frequently than they would have been able to in person. We also won a place on the prestigious KQ labs accelerator programme at the Crick institute and being able to access the programme virtually, meant less travel and time away from the business, which was hugely beneficial. 

“We do miss the shared spaces, meeting hubs and member events which come with being part of an innovation hub, however, and the shared experiences and insights you get from working alongside like-minded businesses. I think business owners will take a pragmatic approach to hybrid working models in the future, working with their teams to decide the best use of time and workspace.” 

“With the ending of many COVID restrictions this week, companies are already moving swiftly to adopt hybrid working models,” said Anna Leach, CBI Deputy Chief Economist.

“This CBI Economics survey of UK businesses explores how employers have considered the positives and challenges which have arisen during remote working and compared them with the potential benefits offered by offices and workplaces. While remote working has enabled workers to more flexibly manage their work, it has also made innovation more challenging. A blended hybrid working model is the way forward for most companies, with employee wellbeing very clearly front and centre.”

The CBI Economics survey of more than 300 businesses across the UK was commissioned by Nexus, to gauge the impact of COVID-19 on companies’ workspace preferences, ways of working, innovation and collaboration.  

The resulting report, published today, showed that UK businesses are well prepared for the return to work in a post-pandemic world, with around a third of companies already implementing hybrid working models and three quarters expecting to have those models underway by the end of the year. The report also revealed: 

  • 93% of businesses plan to adopt hybrid working models, with employees working both in a physical office/workplace and from their home 
  • Only 5% expect to work entirely from an office 
  • 70% expect organisational policy to govern hybrid working 
  • 58% say employees will play a role in driving the management of hybrid working models 
  • 80% cite employee preference and 62% employee health and wellbeing as key motivators 
  • 86% will use employee satisfaction to measure success 
  • 70% said remote working had a negative impact on brainstorming sessions and 83% on those valuable “water cooler” conversations. 

 

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