Embracing hybrid working will be essential to survival, say both employees and the C-suite. This is according to research from Fujitsu, which looks at how the world of work has fundamentally shifted. The report, titled ‘No Going Back?’, provides a deep dive into the irreversible work / life shift that has occurred after the coronavirus pandemic forced organisations to reshape their working process.
With their hands forced by COVID-19, the majority (65%) of teams have now adopted full-time remote working – though most workplaces accept that this was only a temporary solution and that there is more to be done if it is to be sustained beyond the crisis.
A move to a hybrid working model seems to be the preferred choice among all areas of the organisation. It was also deemed to deliver improved resilience and offered organisations a better chance to survive further disruptive events and economic upheaval; a feeling shared by 85% of the C-suite and 71% of employees.
Escaping a burning platform
Although necessitated by a global pandemic, organisations were, for the most part, able to navigate the move to remote working very successfully. When it came to implementing digital tools, both the C-Suite and employees agreed that it was a triumph, with only a few teething issues (63% vs 65%). And critically, these changes were made by the C-suite in partnership with employees: 60% of organisations consulted employees during the rapid transition.
And although COVID-19 was a key driver in workplace change, it was not the only factor – in fact, only 45% of the C-Suite felt it was the number one reason. Instead, we can see that customer and employee demand for change also played a role – so while the catalyst might have been unforeseen, the change seems to have been inevitable.
This is perhaps why organisations have been able to find a silver lining in the pandemic. Eliminating the commute, for example, has helped accelerate the acceptance of the changes – both the C-suite and employees noted that the time and cost of the commute were the biggest disadvantages of returning to a traditional workplace. However, there have been downsides to remote working: 84% of workers said they miss socializing with their colleagues. Moreover, better collaboration with colleagues was listed by both groups as a key advantage of traditional workplaces, suggesting that we should be looking for a balance between working from home and in the office as we edge towards the ‘new normal’.
Commenting on the findings, Paul Patterson, CEO and Head of Northern & Western Europe at Fujitsu, said: “I am proud of the work Fujitsu has done in supporting customers through the pandemic, moving many thousands of employees to home working seamlessly and without drama. To make hybrid happen in a sustainable way, we need to change our physical spaces, and Fujitsu has led the way in doing this. Following announcements in 2020 about changes to the way people work in Japan, we have completely reconfigured our central London HQ to become a creative collaboration space where our people can come together to fulfil the need for social interaction, human connection, and creative collaboration. We have consciously chosen not to mandate the ‘right model’ but to empower our leaders and our people to make the choice that is right for them.”
Finding the hybrid balance
The impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is evident, but challenges remain in ensuring employees are supported.
Many C-suites are also worried about how extended time in a remote workplace would impact employees. For example, 59% worried that without face-to-face interaction employees would not feel appreciated in their roles, while 57% were concerned that remote working meant their employees would feel under more scrutiny.
Indeed, mental health and employee wellbeing were critical factors in C-suite decision-making: With 90% of leaders concerned about employee mental health.
Considering this, a well-managed hybrid model becomes all the more important. With 46% of leaders saying the changes made to date don’t go far enough, signaling that the hard work starts now for UK organisations to be full fit for hybrid.
And while a ‘hybrid working model’ looks to be the best choice, actively understanding what this entails is a challenge. The preference was for ‘part of the week in the workplace (1-2 days), part of the week out of the workplace (3-4 days)’ – 49% of employees selected this as the ideal hybrid format but it was by no means a consensus, and organisations will have to work hard to find a system that suits their organisation, their employee, and their customer needs.
Summing up the report, John Pink, Managing Director – Private Sector, Fujitsu UK, added: “So, there is to be no going back? Well that simply begs the question: where do we go from here?
“The concept of the workplace has changed forever. It is no longer necessarily somewhere employees go. It is now wherever they choose to be, whether that is at home, in an office or on the move.
“It’s the brave new world of the digital workplace. With only 18% of people wanting to return to the office full-time, a hybrid working model gives people the flexibility they need to do their best work and live their best lives. Creating individual and organisational resilience and agility in the face of even the most extreme and unexpected challenges, setting them up to respond to the challenges that lie ahead.
“It’s an irreversible work life shift, and we’ve all made it in some way. Employees are desperate to prove that they can be just as productive from home. They do not want to return to the daily commute, and they will move mountains for their leaders.
“Today, UK leaders should be proud of all they have done to support their employees through one of the hardest times in recent memory – they have proven they are all heart, worrying about employee mental health above all else.
“The future holds much uncertainty, but it also offers new opportunities for organisations to reshape, reimagine and refocus. It’s daunting, but it should also be exciting. To reimagine tomorrow, there is more to be done to commit to sustaining the shift for the long term.”