The way that we work is changing. If we’re not talking about a 4-day week, we’re probably debating hybrid working at the moment. It’s obvious why; COVID and multiple lockdowns made it a necessity for businesses to expand their infrastructure to allow for remote working. This has brought into sharp focus concepts like ‘work-life balance’ and discussions around productivity.
There are no longer any guidelines from the Government that state that we should work from home if we can. While this has, according to the ONS, led to a reduction in people purely working from home since April 2022, we are seeing an increase in hybrid working. People seem to be going into the office some of the time and working from home the rest of the time. What’s more, over 80% of people who had to work from home due to COVID, said that they will continue to hybrid work.
What is Hybrid Working?
Hybrid working is a way of working that allows you to work from home some of the time and work from the office some of the time. Since the government lifted restrictions on working from offices, many employers have moved to a hybrid model. Spotify’s new “band manifesto,” for example, is probably music to employees’ ears:
“Work isn’t somewhere you go, it’s something you do. We give our people the freedom to work where they work best, wherever that may be.”
For Spotify, you can work wherever you want in the world, as long as they have offices in that country.
Is Everyone Hybrid Working?
For most businesses, Spotify’s manifesto would be too extreme. In fact, there are some pretty high-profile detractors, namely, Elon Musk and Tesla. Here’s a recent email from Musk to Tesla employees, transcribed by Insider:
From: Elon Musk
Subject: To be super clear
Everyone at Tesla is required to spend a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week. Moreover, the office must be where your actual colleagues are located, not some remote pseudo office. If you don’t show up, we will assume you have resigned.
The more senior you are, the more visible must be your presence. That is why I lived in the factory so much – so that those on the line could see me working alongside them. If I had not done that, Tesla would long ago have gone bankrupt. There are of course companies that don’t require this, but when was the last time they shipped a great new product? It’s been a while.
Tesla has and will create and actually manufacture the most exciting and meaningful products of any company on Earth. This will not happen by phoning it in.
Musk’s modesty aside, the reason that hybrid working seems so popular is that it gives you the better work-life balance alongside the feeling of belonging that you get when you go into the office. You get the best of both worlds.
Does Hybrid Working, well, Work?
Back to Spotify. Spotify have reported that in the second quarter of 2022, staff attrition has dropped by 15% compared to the same quarter in 2019. In this context (the desire to decrease staff turnover), hybrid working is clearly working.
However, not everyone is in agreement and it’s not just about the turnover of staff. A study of 10,000 workers in a large tech company by Japan’s Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry suggests that working from home has reduced productivity by almost a third. And it’s not just productivity arguments from being back in the office that proliferate.
In an opinion piece for the Financial Times, Camilla Cavendish tells us that Sir John Timpson, chair of the high street firm Timpson, believes that even if we think we want to stay at home, we are social animals who “flourish in the company of other people”. Sir John is well known for being an advocate of change when it comes to employee mental health. That someone so high profile in this discussion is suggesting that to flourish, we should be in the office, is worth considering.
On the other hand, a lot of the arguments for hybrid working are that it improves work-life balance and, therefore, mental health. In fact, the ONS report that 78% of people who declared that they were hybrid working, claimed that their work-life balance had improved. Over 52% of these people also said that they were quicker to complete work! Only 31% of people claimed that they had no distractions when they were working from home and 47% of people said that their wellbeing has improved.
Is Hybrid Working Here to Stay?
ONS stats are great, but we have to take them with a pinch of salt. Humans are fallible and sometimes lie. The point here is that you probably wouldn’t admit to being distracted when working from home, in case it jeopardised your preferred working patterns.
Moreover, what works for one person, might not for another. A young adult with a new family might report a better work-life balance due to hybrid working because they can spend more time with their baby and children in their formative years. Other people might dislike a busy household and need the structure of office work to motivate them. What stresses one person might not stress another.
If people are just as productive, if not more, then does it really matter where they choose work from? As long as company profits are still going in the right direction, professionalism is maintained and clients do not suffer, why wouldn’t you give workers the option? We’re autonomous beings and enjoy power over our own lives. Hybrid working seems like one of the ways to ensure that employees keep this autonomy while still giving the business respect.
What do AIMS Accountants do?
While the scale of hybrid working is new, it’s not a new concept altogether. AIMS Accountants have been working from home for over 30 years, starting successful businesses and reaping the rewards of the flexibility that home working affords them. Our accountants are able to open an office if they want, but a lot of the excitement about joining AIMS is having the freedom to leave the corporate world in favour of more convenient working conditions. Whatever works for you, works for us!