More than 50% of UK workers would quit without hybrid work

Research provides insight into the views of UK workers regarding splitting time between the office and home

Just more than half of UK workers who currently have the choice to mix remote and office working would consider leaving their company if this hybrid option was removed, according to research released by Microsoft.

The study was carried out by the IT giant in conjunction with leading research firm YouGov, with fieldwork undertaken from 7-15 October. Insights and findings were based on online surveys of 2,046 employees and 504 human resources decision makers (HRDMs) in the UK, setting out to discover the reality of how workers are feeling about modern working practices and culture, specifically the effectiveness of onboarding new starters or being a new joiner in a hybrid workplace.

It comes in the wake of recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which recently reported that resignations and job-to-job moves in the UK are at the highest level in two decades. The result, said the survey, is what is now being referred to as the great resignation, with many workers changing roles and companies as they re-evaluate their views on life, work and how to balance them. 

A key finding was that while many UK workers have sought new roles that offer greater flexibility, the study noted that the reality of onboarding at a new business during the pandemic has generated challenges.

More than a third (36%) of UK workers who started a new job since the outset of the pandemic experienced their entire onboarding process without ever setting foot in the workplace. Such workers found a number of areas difficult when it came to remote onboarding. These include: forming working relationships (42%); not having a manager or team “in the room” to ask for information or guidance (33%); learning to use new software and applications (24%); earning the confidence of colleagues (23%); and soaking up company culture (21%).

Flagging up the challenges that exist, the study highlighted the fact that more than a third (36%) of HRDMs felt remote onboarding makes it hard to provide effective, role-specific training for new starters. A similar percentage voiced concerns about ensuring employees have easy access to the information they need to hit the ground running, while 28% were worried about upholding their organisation’s culture and reputation.

Yet despite these issues, the study showed that both employees and HRDMs believe the long-term benefits of hybrid working outweigh these initial woes. The report pointed to the most pressing concerns identified by HRDMs in not having a hybrid working model: inability to retain new talent, with 38% recognising the risk of losing staff to organisations that offer better hybrid working options; a negative impact on productivity, as recognised by 25%; a negative impact on wellbeing (24%); employee burnout (23%); and keeping pace with industry peers (23%).

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Microsoft said that across the data, it was evident that hybrid working has quickly moved from “nice to have” to “must-have” for employees.

More than half (59%) of those working in HR agreed hybrid working has had a positive effect on the mental wellbeing of their workforce. In addition, more than a third (37%) of the HRDMs surveyed who have onboarded new staff remotely since the start of the pandemic said the process, when challenging, is resolvable with the right technology solutions.

“The pandemic has proven that organisations can trust their people to be productive wherever they are,” said Nick Hedderman, director of the modern work business group at Microsoft UK.

“They now have an opportunity to reshape work around individual roles, preferences and even personal lives,” he said. “This is achievable through tech-enabled hybrid working models, which supports the creation of a rich digital culture to benefit everyone, helping to attract and retain top talent.

“HR professionals, leadership teams and IT can work together using digital tools … to create an employee experience platform to serve their organisational needs, such as making the onboarding process rewarding and inclusive for new staff,” said Hedderman. “In doing so, there is a much higher chance of those new hires becoming long-term employees.”

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