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Employers face delicate balancing act as hybrid workforce emerges from lockdown

Study from UK telco advises firms to prepare for the divided demands of the post-lockdown workforce

One year on since the start of the first lockdown, employers need to be prepared for the divided demands of the modern workforce emerging from lockdown, according to research from O2 Business.

Indeed, O2’s research revealed that many workers were already unhappy with how their workplace plans to return to normal life, and if businesses and other organisations don’t respond to the changing needs and personalities of their workforce, they risk losing talent.

After home and remote working became the default mode of organisations in the UK once lockdown was first announced in March 2020, companies are now sensing a return to mixed or hybrid work modes now that Covid-19 infection rates are falling and the UK’s vaccination programme continues. In that time, says the O2 research, not only have new ways of working emerged, so have new work-life personalities that organisations need to prepare for, and accommodate, to create a sustainable working environment for the future.

The report found that just a tenth of workers wish to return to the office full-time (10%) and almost a third don’t want to go back at all (32%).

It’s not just where they work, but the hours worked, too, with more than a quarter (27%) of workers wanting to move to a model of fully flexible working hours after Covid-19. O2 warned that the stakes were high for businesses going forward: nearly a quarter (22%) of employees have applied for a new job in the past three months, with many (26%) citing their employer failing to accommodate their changing and future lifestyle needs as the reason.

In what it says is a move that will help support organisations through the changing needs of their employees, O2 Business has identified the new work-life personalities – from the Home Dwellers to the Office Cravers and the Mixers in-between – that organisations need to prepare for, and accommodate, to create a sustainable working environment for the future.

The Office Cravers, who, post-lockdown, want to be back in the office as soon as possible, permanently, are often young people who miss the social elements of work and the lively office environment. This group of social Gen Zs are less satisfied with their work-life balance now (57% compared with 77% prior to Covid-19) and are more likely to rank socialising with colleagues as the most important factor for being productive at work.

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At the other end of their careers are the Office Cravers who are made up of those in senior positions and more likely to have worked from the office in periods during the pandemic. This group are keen to get back in the office full time as quickly as possible and are more likely to work in the professional services industry.

By contrast, the Home Dwellers make up 16% of workers. These have enjoyed remote working in lockdown so much that they’d like to work from home permanently after lockdown. This group is made up of people who want to work purely at home to better fit around their hobbies, for their mental health or to spend more time with family, friends and housemates. This group is also more likely to agree that it can easily access the work systems needed to work from home and that its employer has made sure technology is readily accessible.

Nearly three-quarters of workers (74%) fall into the category of the Mixers, those who want the ability to work from a mixture of places, be that the home, the office or elsewhere. This group includes the Nomads. After Covid-19, this group of adventurers would like the flexibility to work in a range of locations, for example, an office (74%), multiple private locations (33%), coworking spaces (36%) and while travelling abroad (31%).

The Nomads were found to be more productive when getting regular exercise and able to travel while working. They are mostly 25-34-year-olds and are in higher salary income bands (those over £80k). Nomads also feel their employer could provide them with better tech to be able to work in their preferred way, productively. Others in the Mixers group want to benefit from building in more time with their family while also getting the social benefits from being in an office.

“This research has revealed the situation faced by employers coming out of lockdown, with employees expecting more flexibility when it comes to managing their work-life balance going forward,” said O2 Business managing director Jo Bertram.

“While the pandemic has been a difficult time in many ways, the adversity has forced us to find new ways to keep our employees connected using remote technology.

“Businesses and organisations must continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of their workforce to ensure they continue to attract and retain talent. We want to support organisations in enabling their employees with the right tools and tech to allow flexibility in their working lives.”

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