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Need for work equity and total meeting equality in world of hybrid work

Research into the evolution of the workplace in the wake of Covid shows hybrid workers embracing anytime working as office culture ‘changes for ever’, but concerns over discrimination, career progression and noise weigh on employees’ minds

The aim for businesses in the post-Covid era is to support hybrid work, but while many are enjoying the benefits of hybrid working, others are feeling sidelined and disconnected. In a study from premium audio and video products provider Poly, 58% of workers said they feel the rise in remote working has meant they are “always on” and always available, leaving them unable to relax or switch off from work.

The Poly evolution of the workplace report outlined the evolution of the workplace and changing employee attitudes to the traditional 9-5 working day and analysed the findings of a survey of 7,261 hybrid workers from the UK (2,003), France (1,001), Germany (1,002), Poland (1,000) Sweden (1,005), Spain (1,000) and the UAE (250). The findings were based on an online omnibus survey of hybrid workers conducted by Censuswide in August 2021.

The research concluded that hybrid working is here to stay. As many as 82% of respondents said they intended to spend at least one day a week working from home in the future, with 54% planning to split their time evenly between the office and home. Poly noted that one of the drivers for this shift is the emergence of “anytime working”, whereby employees have greater autonomy over when they do their work. More than two-thirds of employees (69%) said the traditional 9-5 had been replaced by anytime working.

When respondents were asked about the benefits of working from home, the top three responses given were: avoiding lengthy commutes, achieving a better work-life balance and feeling less stressed. Similarly, when asked what they would miss about working from home, people highlighted lie- ins, time with family and finishing on time.

But although many workers have reaped the benefits, working from home has not been a smooth transition for everyone. Poly revealed what it called a worrying blurring of the lines between anytime working and being “always on”. More than half of workers (58%) felt the rise in remote working has meant they are “always on” and always available, leaving them unable to relax or switch off from work.

Added to this, being expected to work outside of their normal hours was listed as the second-biggest drawback of working from home – after having less fun with colleagues.

Within the top five drawbacks of working from home revealed in the report, the top drawback was difficulty collaborating, followed by lack of IT support and lack of equipment to enable home working. This, said Poly, suggested that many employees have not been given the right tools to work effectively.

Nearly half (47%) said they worried about missing out on learning from peers and seniors when working from home and 52% thought hybrid or home workers could be discriminated against or treated differently from employees in the office full-time.

For hybrid working to be a success, these issues must be tackled head on, said Paul Clark, senior vice-president of EMEA sales at Poly. “Companies need to continue to put their employees at the centre of all they do and provide them with the tools they need to accomplish their jobs in this new environment,” he said. “Anytime working should not be confused with being always on.

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“The organisations that promote a healthy work environment and empower anytime working will see a much happier and more productive workforce. This is especially important as we are experiencing the ‘great resignation’ phenomenon, where people across industries are leaving their jobs due to the pandemic.”

The research also revealed very mixed feelings about the return to the office. While many have missed the camaraderie and connection of seeing colleagues and clients, others felt anxious and worried that their performance would suffer. Poly said what was evident was that for many, the changes of the past year are here to stay, with 64% of workers saying office culture has changed for ever.

When respondents were asked how they saw themselves using the office in the future, results tended to be practical and task-oriented. The top three reasons to go back into the office were: brainstorming/collaborating with colleagues, attending meetings, and access to better equipment and technology.

The findings also highlighted the impact that remote working has had on young workers and how their careers could be in jeopardy, with many worrying about the return to the office. Two-fifths of respondents have been unable to visit their new office – either because the company had moved office, or they joined during the pandemic – a figure that rose to 62% of 18 to 24-year-olds. Of the young workers who have not yet visited their office, 72% said the thought of going in for the first time, and the potential noise levels, kept them awake at night.

“The role of the office and what people want to use it for is changing,” said Poly’s Clark. “It is evident that people have craved human interaction since working from home and are looking forward to getting back to the office. To unlock the benefits of hybrid working, organisations need to keep people, technology and spaces front of mind.

“Firstly, businesses need to understand employees’ personas and working styles. Secondly, they need to clearly define their future office – what spaces will be needed? Should they create more areas for quiet working or collaboration? Doing so will allow organisations to better understand their technology requirements to help the workforce become happier and more productive.

“Most importantly, this will ensure everyone has an equal experience, no matter where, when or how they work. This will allow everyone to reap the rewards and truly make hybrid ‘work’.”

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