Despite a shift to hybrid working, which has been largely motivated by employee preference, the majority of business leaders believe they will retain the balance of power.

A recent report by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) reveals that most employers believe the approach to flexible working will be directed by organisational policy.

This is despite four in five businesses (80 per cent) stating they have opted for a hybrid work model due to employee preferences.

Within this, close to two-thirds (62 per cent) of respondents cited mental health and wellbeing of staff as motivation.

A similar number recognised (61 per cent) this approach could attract talent to the firm whilst three-fifths (60 per cent) stated hybrid working would allow them to become a more inclusive employer.

Despite this, seven in 10 (70 per cent) companies believe they will retain the power when it comes to hybrid working, with staff being guided by organisational policy for hybrid working.

Conversely, over half of respondents (58 per cent) felt that the approach to hybrid working would be employee-driven.

There was also shown to be a greater shift towards employee wellbeing when it came to how companies would measure the efficacy of hybrid working.

Over four in five (86 per cent) stated they would measure the success of hybrid working against employee satisfaction and engagement, showing great concern for the experience of staff.

However, just over three-quarters (78 per cent) preferred to measure this against employee productivity.

Overall, as of now, half of respondents (50 per cent) cited a positive impact of remote working on productivity whilst just over a fifth (21 per cent) felt a negative effect.

The positive effect of remote working was felt most noticeably among information and communication businesses (23 per cent).

On the negative side, Just over half of firms judged that remote/hybrid working negatively impacted their ability to be innovative, with only 22 per cent finding it easier.

Seven in 10 businesses (70 per cent) said that remote working had negatively impacted brainstorming and 83 per cent that it had negatively impacted those vital ‘water cooler’ moments, when spontaneous ideas are shared and new
relationships formed, which are fundamental to network expansion and business growth.

Dr. Martin Stow, Chairman and Nexus Director, University of Leeds, reacted to the findings of this report:

Whilst it has been a difficult time all round, the pandemic has allowed some organisations to turn crisis into opportunity and this has been the mantra for many, as they have pivoted products and services to respond to fast-moving or new market needs. The pandemic has also accelerated the adoption of technology and new working practices. We’re now seeing these changes taking effect with only 5 per cent of businesses planning to return to the office full time.

One area of concern highlighted for organisations is collaboration and innovation. As we work to rebuild economies post–pandemic the role of universities to support  research and innovation as a tool for growth will be crucial. The complexity of the emerging needs and challenges of society will demand cross-disciplinary thinking and problem solving.

*The CBI’s ‘Revolution of Work, A Survey on the World of Work Post COVID’19’ report, in the field in May 2021, was designed by both CBI Economics and Nexus and garnered responses from 321 senior representatives of businesses across the UK.