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Hybrid workplaces risk creating a two-tier structure

There is a 50/50 split between UK employees offered full-time hybrid working options (48%) and those who haven't (52%), according to a LinkedIn poll run by HR magazine.

The divide poses a huge threat to employee morale post-pandemic.

Steve Wright, director of the HR Franchise ourHRpeople, said if only half of the UK’s workforce is offered the opportunity to hybrid work employers run the risk of dividing in the workforce.

Speaking to HR magazine he said: “There is a danger of a two-tier structure emerging which is going to difficult to balance and fundamentally unfair on those who do not have the contractual flexibility. 

“This will then require HR to unpick the resulting mess."

Already, he said, he has observed an impact on employee morale due to different work arrangements.

“I have already noticed an effect on the morale of those employees who have been more recently employed based on a work from home basis, and those without the contractual flexibility who feel that there is pressure to return to the office,” he said.

“As the ‘new normal’ approaches, employers that rigidly expect their employees to return to the old status-quo may well find their top talent is attracted elsewhere.

“This is likely to be to an enlightened organisation where the benefits of agile or flexible working are recognised as having a positive effect on employee wellbeing and job satisfaction, and where the benefits to effective customer service is recognised,” he explained.

Darren Hockaday, HR director at Gatwick Airport, suggested that the reason for the split in hybrid is that some business don't yet know if they can offer it as an option.

He said: “It is still early days given that we are still in some restrictions, the furlough scheme continues and there is uncertainty about COVID with new variants.

“I would expect companies to continually review hybrid working and half agreeing to it is significant at this stage.”

However, he added that this may change as the economy opens up.

“The economy opening up may have an effect on this, however it’s also worth noting that the nature of some business will mean it is not an option,” he said.

Dean Corbett, chief people officer at learning and development provider Avado, said by putting people and their lives at the centre of decisions, hybrid work can have a significantly positive impact on morale.

He told HR magazine: “However, you can’t simply go hybrid overnight, it requires thoughtful intent and acceptance that everyone has different needs and aspirations.

“At Avado, we are building our hybrid working environment to accommodate this with an understanding that it will iterate over time.”

Corbett said agility and a clear set of guidance is key to supporting a shift to hybrid working.

He said: “To support our approach, we’ve re-developed our performance management and personal development programmes, offering dedicated support through on-demand coaching and enabling greater visibility of what everyone is focused on.

“We truly believe that these aspects of the working experience will impact engagement by offering our people the autonomy to choose what to focus on, and how to achieve both business and personal goals.”

HR magazine conducted the LinkedIn poll on 12 May 2021 and had 1,167 responses.