Thought Leadership Hybrid Work

3 things we learned from the UK Hybrid Work Commission – and what it could mean for your business

6 min read

Updated on May 27, 2024

Published on October 23, 2023

UK Hybrid Work Commission
Drew Smith
Drew Smith
UK & Ireland Government Relations Manager
Drew leads government relations for the UK and Ireland at Zoom.

The future of work is hybrid. That much has been clear for some time, and nowhere more so than in the United Kingdom.

In May 2023, 83% of UK organizations polled by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) revealed they had adopted hybrid working arrangements, and a separate study from the Institute for Economic Research, also using data from May 2023, found that UK employees now spend an average of 1.5 days per week working remotely – higher than any other developed nation in the study except Canada (averages 1.7 days). 

This widespread adoption of hybrid and flexible work reflects its popularity: Zoom’s own polling with Morning Consult found that only 8% of UK workers with some experience of remote working prefer working in an office full time – lower than in any other country polled.

Zoom has been helping customers in the UK and around the world to navigate these changes and maintain connections via Zoom Meetings, Team Chat, and Zoom Phone. In addition, many of our products including Zoom Rooms, Zoom Workspace Reservation, and Zoom Whiteboard have been designed to enhance physical, modern workplaces for today’s hybrid workforces. We could not be prouder that our unified communications platform continues to support the shift towards hybrid work: by keeping teams that work remotely or asynchronously connected, the Zoom platform helps foster the mutual sense of trust critical for teams to do their best work from anywhere. 

Making the most of the shift to hybrid

But having the right technology is only one part of the puzzle to getting hybrid working ‘right’ for any organization. Thoughtful workplace policies, intentional new internal practices, manager training, and workspaces re-imagined for today’s hybrid world will all be equally critical to future business success in crucial areas such as recruitment and culture.

That’s why Zoom partnered with several other businesses, membership organizations, and leading employment academics to co-found the Hybrid Work Commission. The Commission was established to examine and make recommendations to UK policy-makers on how they can respond to the rise in hybrid and remote working to the advantage of people, communities, and the broader UK economy. The research included business and consumer polling designed to gauge the perceived benefits and challenges of hybrid work among UK employers and employees, helping to paint a picture of how expectations have shifted across sectors and organizations that have adopted different working styles. 

Here are three things we learned that may be relevant to your organization:  

  1. Organisations embracing hybrid work will have easier access to talent

In today’s economy, access to talent can make or break a business and be the difference between growing and stagnant organizations. Research from Nick Bloom at Stanford University estimates that workers with choices over when and where they work value it equivalent to an 8% pay rise, citing reduced commuting time and benefits to work-life balance and well-being. 

Insights from the Commission suggest that organizations that require employees on location full-time will increasingly have to pay significantly more to find and keep the talent they need both in terms of the salaries they offer and higher recruitment costs, impacting the bottom line. Our polling revealed that: 

  • 70% of UK employers polled that have adopted hybrid working said it had made it easier for them to hire, and 77% said it had improved staff retention.
  • 51% of UK employers polled that have adopted hybrid working said it had helped them recruit staff from further afield, boosting access to talent.
  • 75% of UK employees with hybrid arrangements said it had improved their work-life balance, and 62% said it had improved their wellbeing. 
  1. The shift to hybrid has given many UK women the ability to take on more hours

For decades, professional women in the UK have worked fewer hours than they would ideally like because of the responsibilities associated with caring for children and other dependents. However, the rise of flexible and hybrid working opportunities is beginning to reverse this. 

An economic analysis conducted for the Commission found that hybrid working has encouraged large numbers of professionally educated women to move to full-time work – particularly mothers. The Commission found that:

  • UK women who have hybrid working arrangements are much more likely to work full-time than those who work mainly in locations other than their homes. This is especially true for women with children.
  • There has been a significant increase in the share of UK women in specific sectors (banking, ICT, and other professional services) working full-time between 2019 and 2023, which again was especially pronounced for women with children.
  1. Individuals with disabilities and long-term health conditions highly value flexibility 

In the UK and elsewhere, declining labor market activity has been an important recent economic challenge that has contributed to tight labor market conditions and persistent inflation. Increases in the number of economically inactive individuals with long-term conditions, especially since the Covid pandemic, have been a key contributor. The Commission concluded that greater availability of hybrid and flexible opportunities can help to address this, while also enabling organizations to benefit from the talents and skills of individuals with conditions that make full-time location-based employment untenable: 

  • 42% of UK businesses polled reported finding it easier to hire people with disabilities since the rise of hybrid working.
  • 44% of UK workers with long-term health conditions reported wanting more flexible working in their role, and 47% said that flexible working had improved their wellbeing.

Time to embrace the shift – or face losing out on talent

Taken together, the three insights above indicate that organizations with rigid location-based work policies could increasingly struggle to attract or retain the skilled workers they need to grow and thrive, leading to more staff churn and higher recruitment costs. Nearly half of respondents to our Morning Consult survey now consider flexible work a basic expectation of their employment, rather than a perk, and 70% said they would consider leaving their current job for a more flexible working environment in the future.

Of course in some instances, certain organizations may feel they need their teams on location 100% of the time. However, it’s clear from the UK Hybrid Work Commission that those organizations will need to pay higher salaries to attract talent, and risk missing out altogether on the skilled contribution of individuals with disabilities, long-term health conditions, or childcare responsibilities, for whom working full-time in an office won’t be suitable. 

This need not be the case. To learn more about how embracing hybrid work can help your organization, get in touch or read the conclusions from the UK Hybrid Work Commission in full here for free

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