How hybrid working is helping millions more people earn a living
29th October 2021
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What do you call someone who only comes to the office three days a week?
This isn’t the opening of a bad joke. But the answer might make you laugh (or cry, or feel a bit annoyed, depending on your viewpoint).
It’s a new acronym supposedly coined by a group of disgruntled City workers, referring to their hybrid working colleagues as TWATs (Tuesdays, Wednesdays And Thursdays).
This somewhat unflattering moniker comes in the wake of City chief executive Andrew Monk suggesting people “abuse” remote working, and it makes them less productive, while Goldman Sachs boss David Solomon has previously described it as an “aberration.”
Our latest report with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) tells a very different story.
Not only has increased remote working made people more productive, it’s also boosted employee and customer satisfaction rates at a time when many would have expected them to fall.
But while these things are important to individual organisations, there’s a wider societal impact that arguably matters even more.
Our research with Cebr found that enabling hybrid working — i.e. a mix of remote and office-based work – could pave the way for 3.8 million more Brits to enter the workforce.
3.8 million people who were ‘locked out’ of the traditional working world for a variety of reasons. Parents, carers, those with disabilities. People who couldn’t feasibly fit into the rigid routine of being at a certain desk in a certain building at a certain time every day.
Thanks to hybrid working, however, they’re not locked out any more.
No more binary choice between work and life
Our very own Ruth Rainbow, chair of Virgin Media O2 Business's neurodiversity network Our Indigo Minds, is someone whose life has been positively impacted by the ability to work more flexibly.
Her eldest son is diagnosed as Autistic Dyspraxic and her youngest son is showing early symptoms at the top end of the Aspergic spectrum, meaning Ruth has to be around to care for them.
In the past, this severely limited her career options. She could only accept jobs within two or three miles of her children.
“I worked in an agency for 14 years. I’ve done the 14-hour days, a high salary, great times, lots of fun, localised employment. And that stopped. The minute Harry had the diagnosis, my working world was never to be that again.”
But in the wake of lockdown everything changed. The move to hybrid working meant Ruth no longer had to choose between work and life – she could balance the two.
“I’m no longer the mum who has to stand up and run at four o’clock to get back to the child minder. I spent 10 years apologising for not being there. And having those handcuffs removed, that’s been significant to my ability to parent and do my job.”
Matt Murdoch, a single parent caring for his daughter who suffers from a bone disease, is another example of someone whose life has been changed by hybrid working.
It’s allowed him to “feel part of the team” again, he says.
“I get more control over my time. Some of that time I spend working, so it’s a benefit to the business. And the rest of that time I get to spend being the father I want and need to be.”
That point about it being good for the business is an important one.
While hybrid working is obviously brilliant for people like Ruth and Matt and should be encouraged for that reason alone, employers can benefit from it too.
And the arguments for it doesn’t end there…
A boost for the UK’s part-time employees
As well as helping 3.8 million more people into jobs, hybrid working could see a massive boost in the number of hours part-time employees are able to do.
43% of part-time workers (3.7 million people) would increase their hours if their employer allowed remote working, according to our research with Cebr.
That’s a collective 1.27 billion more working hours every year – the equivalent of an extra 631,000 full-time employees.
With UK employers currently facing the worst shortage of job candidates on record, this is surely one way to start plugging that gap.
And let’s not forget the impact on people’s bank balances and the knock-on effect that will have on the economy.
The average part-time employee could earn an extra £69 a week by increasing their hours thanks to hybrid working, or £3,600 a year, while informal carers could earn an extra £92 a week, or £4,800 a year.
All of this could boost the UK’s annual GDP by £48 billion, according to Cebr.
But it gets even better.
Continued investment in hybrid working technologies, digital services and better use of data could add £76 billion to UK GDP in total by 2025.
By 2040 that figure could be £236 billion.
It’s time to follow the evidence
Calls from certain politicians and business leaders for a return to the familiarity and control of office life are understandable. Human beings fear change. We always have. And throughout history there are countless examples of people resisting it.
But numbers don’t lie. And the evidence is there in black and white:
Hybrid working is good for individuals, good for organisations, good for our economy and good for our society.
The office still has a role to play, of course, and some industries and job roles are naturally more suited to hybrid working than others. But ultimately we need to be thinking forwards, not trying to cling on to a past that probably needed improving anyway. Now is not the time to ask how we can get people back to the office.
Now is the time to ask how we can make this new way of doing things work as well as it possibly can, creating a more productive, engaged and inclusive workforce for all.
That’s where our focus is going to be in the months and years to come.
Want to know more about the Cebr research and what all this means for your organisation?