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Hybrid working to be used by biggest UK employers

Nearly all the 50 biggest UK employers have said they do not plan on bringing their staff back to the office full-time, according to new research by the BBC.

Citing the need to start 'smart working' and offering flexibility to employees, 43 of the firms said they would embrace a mix of home and office working.

Staff will also be encouraged to work from home two to three days a week.

Mark Read, chief executive of advertising firm WPP, told BBC News: “We're never going to go back to working the way we used to work, but the new ways of using the office require careful planning.

"People are working from home three to four days a week so we probably need 20% less space, but we're not going to do that if everyone's working from home on Mondays and Fridays."

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Sridhar Iyengar, managing director at software development company Zoho Europe, said it is not surprising many businesses are starting to cut back on using office spaces.

He told HR magazine: “Safety, productivity and costs are now taking precedent when employers decide on business operations post pandemic.

“However, humans are social beings, and many employees and colleagues are itching for some real-life interaction in a work environment.”

Iyengar said he predicts a hybrid working model which sees workers operate from a part-home, part-office environment, will become the model of choice for most businesses.

He said: "This hybrid model will appease cost-concerned employers while maintaining benefits such as flexibility and wellbeing improvements, all the while injecting a social element back into workspaces.

“As these businesses take this route, it is crucial that decision-makers equip IT teams with better long-term solutions to surging demand for their services.”

The pandemic allowed employees who had never before worked flexibly do so, and Danny Harmer, chief people officer at Aviva, said they now want to continue working flexibly.

Speaking to BBC News, Harmer said 95% of Aviva workers said they would like to be able to spend some of their time working flexibly and remotely in different locations.

She said: “The company had to be mindful that many staff appreciate being in an office, such as those who live alone or do not have a suitable place to work.”

The BBC questioned 50 big employers, ranging from banks to retailers. The firms contacted cover 1.1 million workers in the UK.