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Are workers finally ready to walk away from traditional workplace models? For the most part, it looks like the answer is yes. According to a recent social poll conducted by Robert Half, over two-thirds (67 per cent) of workers now consider themselves ‘homesteaders’ — they prefer to perform most of their work from home.

Other sentiments expressed as recently as April this year have a similar tone. Over half (59 per cent) of workers confessed to feeling apprehensive or nonplussed about returning to the office. Two fifths (39 per cent) have seized the opportunities presented by remote work and even explored home relocation options.

After almost a year and a half of remote work, the general attitude is clear: staff are comfortable where they are. Although we’ve seen employers like Microsoft and Salesforce choose to honour this, some still insist on a return to traditional models over fears of culture and identity erosion. Change naturally breeds resistance, but could this stubbornness come at the cost of worker satisfaction?

The hybrid workplace has been a long time coming

Contrary to popular belief, the pandemic didn’t trigger the idea of a hybrid workplace. It expedited it. When we look back on historic Robert Half Salary Guide data, flexible work and remote work are key employee remuneration requests and have been for several consecutive years across almost all sectors.

When we pair this knowledge with statistics on the rising rate of employee burnout over the last few years, we can see a worrying pattern. HSE has tracked an increase in reported work-related stress since 2015 — a trend that reached its highest peak during the pandemic. It’s an issue still being faced today; according to a social poll conducted in April, almost a third (31 per cent) of individuals reported suffering from work-related burnout in the wake of the pandemic. Perhaps a new approach is needed if we’re to successfully bring work and life back into balance?

The benefit of adopting a hybrid approach

Remote work has its benefits where employee skill sets are concerned. The hybrid workplace requires a unique blend of technical and soft skills that recruiters are increasingly and repeatedly being asked for by employers. This ‘hybrid skillset’ is characterised by excellent remote communication skills, a good grasp of data analysis, and the ability to learn new technologies quickly. In the recruitment market, these are the core skills we’re seeing employers ask for in the second half of 2021.

The benefits of a hybrid environment aren’t limited to the talent you already have in-house. By offering remote work roles, employers gain access to a national talent pool rather than a smaller local one. It also makes overseas talent more accessible — a hiring strategy considered vital in helping the UK upgrade its digital skills and recover the economy post-pandemic.

Taking inspiration from the frontrunners

Remote working opportunities are already being offered by some of the UK’s most exciting regions. According to new data, demand is robust in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, and Bristol. In February, we saw a 190 per cent spike in the number of employers listing remote job opportunities.

New research has uncovered priority areas of focus for C-suite professionals who want to support hybrid work practices during the second half of the year. Most said they plan to transition to an outcome/impact-based workplace culture rather than a traditional ‘input’ based model. This allows workers to take ownership of their targets and encourages them to navigate the journey independently. It’s an excellent way to increase employee engagement away from the office and puts them in a position to develop the essential hybrid skillset needed to futureproof the workplace.

The second approach is focused on helping employees improve their home working environment, so they feel productive and comfortable. Some companies issued each employee with an allowance to help them get set up at home — software companies like Basecamp and Twitter gave remote employees up to $1,000 per person. It’s a smart way to instil staff with a sense of pride and ownership over their office environment while ensuring they have the resources to establish a space that’s fit for purpose.

The data tells a powerful story about worker sentiments regarding full-time office work. It also suggested that, even if an employer is unwilling to dismantle the traditional model immediately, 68 per cent of employees are happy to come into the office an average of two days a week. When their satisfaction, engagement, and mental health is on the table, the hybrid office is a small concession to make.

    Matt Weston is UK Managing Director of Robert Half. At Robert Half, we understand the importance of employee happiness to your organisation. Higher levels of employee engagement lead to greater productivity. And workers who feel valued are motivated to make real, tangible contributions to the company.

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