Hybrid working here to stay, research shows, but most firms are struggling to make it a success

January 20, 2022

More than nine in 10 of mid-market businesses in the South West have adopted hybrid or remote working as a way of overcoming the impact of the pandemic – but many are struggling to make it a success, according to a new survey.

Research by accountancy firm Grant Thornton reveals 92% of the region’s mid-sized businesses have brought in some form of hybrid working and, despite the government announcing the end of its ‘Plan B’ this week, which encouraged people to work from home where possible, it looks set to remain the norm for many of them. 

The survey results show managing the work of junior staff as one of the most problematic hybrid working challenges, with 39% of firms adopting hybrid working saying this was an issue.

The same percentage also said reduced productivity and ensuring a high level of staff welfare had emerged as obstacles, with bosses eager to find ways of reducing isolation and anxiety levels.

The results are from the firm’s latest Business Outlook Tracker showed that allowing staff to split their time between working remotely and in an office had become the most common working practice at the end of last year.

Grant Thornton South West practice leader Jonathan Riley, pictured, said: “It’s clear that hybrid working is here to stay and it can offer many benefits to companies and their people, from saving costs on reduced office space to a better work-life balance. 

“However, despite it being more than 20 months since it became the new status quo during the first Covid-19 lockdown, it’s evident that many firms in the South West are still facing a number of challenges with its implementation.”

He said hybrid working needed time and commitment to be truly effective and there was no one size fits all approach.

“The whole market is on a learning curve to experiment and find the best method that works for them and ensure their people continue to feel connected and supported by their business and their teams, wherever they work,” he added.

“To ensure that younger team members are properly supported, it’s essential that expectations are clearly defined throughout the organisation and not subject to ambiguity or confusion.

“Setting out clear goals and explaining the support that’s available will help businesses to better manage their more junior colleagues in a way that achieves greater levels of engagement while helping them start their careers on the right path.”

He said businesses now needed to be open to evolving and challenging themselves as to how their hybrid working approach could be made more effective, such as through investing in new technology that helped teams to communicate and stay connected, and providing additional guidance on how work is organised and co-ordinated.”

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