Three years have passed since the WHO declared the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and whilst in some parts of the world, the worst seems to be behind us, the pandemic’s impact has lingered on in our daily life, especially in the work world.
For example, a number of people and businesses tried out remote work for the first time during COVID-19. While some have since returned to the office full-time over the past year as we’ve entered the “new normal”, hybrid, flexible, and asynchronous work continue to be popular in a post-pandemic world.
With the help of market research agency OnePoll, we conducted a survey of 1000 UK office workers and knowledge workers from a range of levels and industries to bring you a few key insights on current hybrid workplace trends and the future of work.
Read on to learn more!
Hybrid work has become an increasing trend in the UK, and its popularity has remained steady since the pandemic. In general, current ways of working are meeting employee expectations, with nearly 80% of employees reporting they are satisfied with the current model in place at their company.
But opinions on hybrid work are complex—while some employees enjoy the freedom, others struggle with the isolation of working from home. Survey respondents said their favourite perks of hybrid work were:
On the other hand, they felt that hybrid work’s main drawbacks were:
Undoubtedly, the ability to work remotely for part of the time has its perks. The average commute time in the UK is about half an hour, according to Transport Statistics Great Britain (TSGB), so many UK residents can save an hour or more per day with home working (and also enjoy some cost savings on fuel.)
This leaves employees with more time to spend with their families, and increases the amount they can get done during the workday—hence the other two benefits mentioned above (better work-life balance and increased productivity.)
However, there are also some downsides to remote and hybrid work. Not everyone has access to a properly-equipped, private home office space or work location. But a comfortable and distraction-free workspace is crucial for mental and physical wellness, and avoiding burnout.
In addition, it may be difficult for employees to feel that they are able to communicate easily or that their ideas are being heard while working remotely. In-person meetups are crucial for company culture, since the face to face interaction can stimulate creativity and promote mental health. While video conferencing (like Zoom or Microsoft Teams) is a convenient way to communicate, it can’t fully replace in-person interaction.
There are many variations on a hybrid work schedule, with some companies leaning more towards remote and others leaning more towards in-person office work. While companies don’t always require their hybrid employees to spend a specific number of days in the office, the vast majority (69%) do.
UK companies tend to be flexible on the amount of in-office days they require, with most (59%) requiring three days or fewer of weekly office attendance. Of the survey respondents who said their employer required a certain amount of office attendance:
Employees have mixed feelings about the number of days they are required to go into the office. Although 42% say they wouldn’t change anything about their current working arrangements, 30% say they would ideally prefer more flexibility, and 23% say they would prefer to go to the office less.
In addition, many UK employees find their employer’s remote working policies unclear. Nearly 28% of employees are unsure whether their companies are tracking office attendance or not. An additional 25% are unsure whether they are permitted to work remotely from abroad or not.
Improving communication with hybrid employees—and making sure expectations around remote work and office work are clear—may contribute to improving UK employees’ perceptions of their hybrid work schedules.
The majority of survey respondents felt there were many benefits to meeting colleagues in person. 58% said the main benefit of in-person collaboration was creating a sense of belonging within the team, while 43% said they believe it boosts productivity and creativity.
Other important benefits cited were that people work better when meeting in person (34%), and that it fosters company culture (32%). Only 19% claimed they thought meeting in person wasn’t important at all.
Since many participants thought meeting in person was crucial for creating a sense of belonging and staying creative, it’s not surprising that they used their time in the office to have 1:1 meetings with their teams or managers (33%), and meet new team members (30%). Other popular in-office activities were brainstorming and strategy sessions (22%), and social events (20%).
Building camaraderie and staying connected with other team members is clearly a very high priority for UK professionals. Not only did survey respondents highlight this as one of their greatest concerns about hybrid work, they also found it to be one of the greatest benefits of in-person working.
While employees spend lots of time connecting with their colleagues in the office, they can also do so through company offsites and team building events. For distributed hybrid and remote teams, these types of events may require some travel. However, they provide a crucial opportunity to see others in person, enjoy a unique social and professional experience, and get some of that face to face interaction that hybrid workers and remote employees crave.
In general, team building has been shown to have an important impact on company culture, the employee experience, and workplace well-being, creating a positive work environment and driving business performance. In fact, up to 55% of employee engagement is driven by this type of non-financial recognition, according to McKinsey. And data from Gallup show that highly-engaged business units enjoy lower absenteeism and higher employee productivity.
Social events and team building events can also form an important part of a company’s people and culture offer, helping them build their employer brand and attract top talent.
Unfortunately, not all workers have the chance to benefit from in-person events and get-togethers with their team. In our survey, nearly a quarter of hybrid teams and over half of remote teams said they never got together for in-person team building or social activities.
However, hybrid teams are more likely to hold these gatherings than remote teams, and they also tend to hold them more frequently. 19% of hybrid teams meet for such activities once a month, as opposed to just 6% of remote teams. Most remote teams meet only once a quarter (17%) or once a year (19%).
Although many remote and hybrid teams don’t meet up regularly, they still occasionally meet up for annual events with the entire company. 65% of respondents said their organisation held these gatherings at least once a year, with nearly 40% opting to hold them once a year, and 20% meeting 2-3 times a year.
The most popular types of company-wide events were:
Other popular types of company events include:
These events are a great chance to bond, break down silos, and connect with employees in other departments. However, unlike a regular team meeting they are more focused on large-group activities, rather than one-on-one brainstorming and socialising. Both company-wide events and smaller team gatherings are key ways to strengthen professional relationships.
To pull off any type of successful company event, coordinating group travel is essential—but managing bookings, agendas, and meetings for multiple travellers can get complicated pretty quickly. Luckily, this process can be made much simpler with the right travel management software. This type of software can help you save time, stay organised, and benefit from corporate travel discounts when planning travel to an event.
There’s a lot to take in here! Whether you’re a human resources manager, a people and culture decision maker, a team manager, or a C-suite business leader trying to decide how things will work at your company in the next year and beyond, here’s a quick overview of the key takeaways from our survey: