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Northern workplaces back long-term hybrid working

Hybrid working is set to become a permanent feature of northern workplaces in the future, research from the Work Foundation and Newcastle University Business School has found.

Over a quarter (31.5%) of workers across the North of England are still remote working even after the easing of lockdown restrictions.

This is a significant shift in working patterns given a lot of work in the North centres around manufacturing and on-site roles.

For many manufacturing businesses, the pandemic has provided them with their first experience of remote working.

In June 2020, 70% of manufacturing workers in the North of England reported they had never worked from home from home before.

However, as of June 2021, 16% reported they had been working remotely exclusively throughout the pandemic.

Mel Wilkes, head of research at the Work Foundation, said most organisations have had to adopt a responsive approach throughout the pandemic, putting temporary measures in place just to continue to operate and, in some cases, survive.

However, she told HR magazine: “As restrictions ease, there’s a need for workforce management to become more proactive and strategic, recognising many employees will not want to return to a working life where five days a week are spent in the office.

“HR teams will be crucial in facilitating this shift, which will have major implications for workplace culture, staff wellbeing, productivity and performance.”

Wilkes said HR will play a vital role in ensuring all colleagues feel supported as these new ways of working emerge.

“They will need to engage with junior staff and senior management alike to identify the right approaches for individuals and organisations as a whole,” she said.

Hybrid work post-pandemic:

Rethink organisational design to maximise benefits of hybrid work

How to make hybrid working ‘work’

HR needs good tech to make hybrid work

The report warned employers must act now if they want to make hybrid work a success in the North of England, given the challenges it poses to workplace culture and health and wellbeing.

Rebecca Florisson, policy advisor at the Work Foundation, said employers cannot risk bad habits such as staff feeling unable to take breaks or step away from their computers and breakdowns in communication between teams.

She said: “New policies need to be introduced quickly, with employees’ health and wellbeing front and centre.

“A right to disconnect policy developed with staff and trade unions would be an extremely useful starting point.

“This would help to clearly set out expectations around working hours and technology use and encourage open and honest conversations between managers and their teams about what is expected.”