How employers weigh the pros and cons of hybrid working

Although business leaders recognise the benefits of hybrid working for their employees, many are still worried about the impact that such an arrangement has on company culture

Hybrid working is now the most common workplace arrangement in the UK. According to a 2023 report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), 83% of UK organisations allow for hybrid working.

Yet, despite its popularity, business leaders continue to debate the best approach to hybrid working. How many days per week should employees come into the office? Should those days be predetermined, or left to each individual to decide? Is it best to have formal policies on hybrid working, or can managers make do with informal arrangements?

Underlying these discussions is the recognition that hybrid working can have both positive and negative impacts on employees and organisations. Although business leaders seem to recognise the benefits of hybrid working for employee wellbeing, talent management and business agility and resilience, many are still worried about how hybrid working affects company culture and innovation.

How do employers balance these competing considerations? This data from the CIPD looks at what business leaders consider when crafting a hybrid working arrangement.

Most employers agree that hybrid working has not negatively impacted employee productivity. On the contrary, just under half (46%) say that hybrid working has actually made employees more productive, while another 36% say that productivity is the same regardless of whether employees are hybrid working, or in the office full time. Only 16% of bosses believe that employees are less productive in a hybrid working setup.

Employers recognise that hybrid working brings many benefits, both for employees and for the business as a whole. The chart above shows employers’ perception of the net impact of hybrid working, taking negative impact away from positive impact. For employers, the primary benefits of hybrid working are the ability to recruit from a wider geography, and the ability to better attract and retain talent.

As for its impact on the workforce, most employers agree that hybrid working has been beneficial to employees’ financial, mental and physical wellbeing. Many also believe that hybrid working has led to a move inclusive and accessible workplace.

But the effects of hybrid working have not been all positive. Employers believe that, overall, hybrid working has had a negative impact on company culture and employees’ connection to the organisation’s purpose. They also note that hybrid working has made it harder for managers to lead their teams effectively.

Hybrid working appears to be particularly beneficial to employees. Seven in 10 employers say that hybrid working improves their employees’ work/life balance, and more than half say it leads to greater employee satisfaction. Talent attraction and retention, and business flexibility were also cited as key benefits of hybrid working.

There is perhaps less agreement on the challenges posed by hybrid working. Difficulties managing remote teams, hurdles in collaboration and the effects on company culture are among the top challenges related to hybrid working, according to employers. But the number-one challenge, cited by 42% of respondents, is simply getting employees to come into the office when they need to be there. 

There are several reasons why senior leaders want employees back in the office, at least some of the time. More than half of senior business leaders believe that being together in the office improves employee connections, relationships and collaboration.

On a more practical level, just under half (47%) think it is easier to onboard new joiners when working from the office, and more than a third (36%) say in-office working allows for more effective training and development.

There are also one in five senior leaders who suspect that their employees are not really working when they’re ‘working’ from home.