Hybrid Working: A Rocky Part to the Future

A significant proportion of global leaders are confident that life will return to normal over the next 12 months. But recent data suggests that transformation may be thrust upon them.

According to the most recent KPMG CEO Outlook Pulse Survey, CEOs are split over the extent of long-term change – 24% say their business has changed forever, but 31% predict a complete return to normal later this year.

When polled on downsizing office space, 69% of CEOs were in favour in 2020 however in 2021, only 17% were in favour, while 30% favoured flexible remote work (2-3 days a week).

According to Consultancy firm Gartner’s recent survey of 4,000 employees about their views on hybrid working, there is a disconnect between what CEOs and employees view as flexible working.

The survey shows 75% of executive leaders believe they already operate a flexible culture. However, just 57% of employees agree. Nearly three-quarters of executives believe the business understands how flexible work patterns support employees, but only half of the employees share this view.

According to a report by McKinsey, employers are underestimating how big this disconnect is. As outlined by the KPMG survey, they are confident of a quick return to normal. This false optimism is driving a mass exodus of employees: 40% of workers around the world are considering leaving their jobs before the end of the year.

Employers and employees don’t know exactly what they want the future to look like, but employees certainly want flexible working in some form or another. Post-pandemic, the number of employees wanting a hybrid working approach increased from 30% to 52%, according to McKinsey.

It could take years to get a hybrid working model right. Organisations will need to rebuild their working culture from scratch. It may be necessary to attract and keep the best talent. If one organisation doesn’t go hybrid, its competitors will.

Leaders need to find new etiquette around blended meetings, determine the risks of a two-tier approach to people development, where those who are in the office getting more benefits than those at home, purely on the merit of being more visible. Ensuring equity for all staff is one of the major questions of hybrid working.

Organisations will need to develop clear strategies around technology and tools to manage hybrid workforce. Moving to a more digital workplace will create opportunities – better insights using data analytics, improved decision making, new skills and talent. Although, it also comes with challenges such as addressing cyber security risks and the dilemma about people management and employee monitoring.

Organisations can learn from some pioneers that have had a head start and know where the critical considerations and complexities lie. This includes an organisation’s approach to the finance function – working remotely has already pushed much of the function onto the cloud, and provided teams with deeper, real-time data to work with.

ICAEW’s series on hybrid working and the future of work takes a closer look at some of the issues and opportunities that arise in the emerging hybrid workplace, and how that might develop in the longer term.

This article is a summary of the original publication that appeared on ICAEW Insights.