While our research showed an increase in requests for flexible and hybrid working, and that three-fifths of employers already offer this, we also found that there’s unmet demand for varying types of flexible working. Considering that 6% of employees changed jobs last year due to a lack of options – and 12% left their profession/sector altogether – it is essential for employers to increase both formal and informal flexible working arrangements to improve staff retention and attract the best talent.
The UK Government’s proposal to make the right to request flexible working from day one, rather than after 26 weeks of employment, is likely to further escalate the amount of flexible working requests from employees. But our research shows 49% of organisations were unaware of the impending changes.
While a myth persists that flexible and hybrid working is only suitable for certain industries, an increase in access to different forms of flexibility, including different start and finish times, compressed hours, job-shares, the ability to swap shifts, etc, will help organisations offer better options to their employees, regardless of their job role or sector they work in.
This report explores the current state of flexible and hybrid working practices from both an employer and employee perspective, providing insights into the wider impact on productivity, performance, employee engagement, wellbeing, organisational culture, and equality, diversity and inclusion.
While these findings are based on UK data, the broader trends and implications should be of interest wherever you are based.
Flexible and hybrid working practices in 2023Download the report
Key findings: Flexible working
We’ve seen an increase in requests for flexible working
- Two-fifths (40%) have seen an increase in requests for flexible working following the pandemic.
- A growing number of organisations (66% versus 56% in a similar CIPD survey in 2022) believe that it is important to provide flexible working as an option when advertising jobs. They see this as a key way of attracting staff and addressing skill or labour shortages.
- A third (33%) say that most (76–100%) of their advertised jobs make it clear flexible working is an option. But a fifth (22%) say that none of their advertised roles do this.
- Around two-fifths (39%) say they will be more likely to grant requests for flexible working, besides working from home, compared with before the pandemic.
A growing number of employers are offering a day one right to request flexible working
- Forty-nine per cent of organisations were not aware of the proposed UK Government change to make the right to request flexible working from day one rather than after 26 weeks of employment.
- However, 39% of organisations already offer a day one right to request flexible working (up from 36% in a similar CIPD survey last year) and 14% now plan to introduce this before the legislation change.
Three-fifths of employees have flexible working arrangements
- Three-fifths (60%) say they have flexible working arrangements in their current role. This has jumped from 51% who said this in a similar CIPD survey last year.
Job satisfaction is greater for those with both formal and informal flexible working arrangements
- Almost half (44%) of employees with flexible working arrangements describe this as informal. More than a fifth (23%) describe it as formal, with a further 30% describing their arrangements as a combination of formal and informal.
- Employees with a mixture of formal and informal flexible working arrangements are more satisfied with their job overall, their line manager and opportunities to progress. Those with only informal flexibility are more satisfied with their work–life balance and control over work.
- Only around half of employees feel comfortable asking their employer for informal (53%) or formal working arrangements (47%).
There’s unmet demand for types of flexible working
- Working from home on a regular basis (37%) and informal flexibility (31%) are the most common types of flexibility employees report.
- However, when asked what arrangements people would use in their roles, the highest number would like a four-day week (46%), informal flexibility (40%), flexitime (39%) and working from home on a regular/ad hoc basis (39%).
Flexibility for front-line roles is important
- Sixty-five per cent of organisations provide some kind of flexibility to their front-line workers.
- The most popular type of flexibility is in start and finish times (46%), with a third providing flexibility in scheduling of shifts/rotas. Almost a third (31%) provide the ability to swap shifts with colleagues.
A lack of flexibility is prompting job and career changes for some
- Six per cent of employees say they have left a job in the last year specifically due to a lack of flexible working, and 12% have changed their careers/profession due to a lack of flexible working options within the sector. This represents almost 2 million and 4 million workers respectively (based on calculations: 32.95 million people are currently in employment in the UK. 6% = 1,977,000, 12% = 3,954,000.)
- This has jumped from 4% and 9% in a similar survey a year ago.
- Employees with a disability or long-term health condition are significantly more likely to say this (21% and 32%).
Flexible working is pivotal when looking for new roles
- When thinking about a new role, 71% say being able to have a flexible working pattern is important to them and 69% say the ability to work remotely is important.
- Employees also highlight flexible working (53%) and remote working (53%) as key when considering a new job, only overtaken in importance by pay and benefits (77%).
Key findings: Hybrid working
Organisations are taking varied approaches to hybrid
- Eighty-three per cent of organisations have hybrid working in place. Forty-five per cent have a formal policy, 24% take an informal approach, and 13% are developing policies through learning/trialling.
- Over half (52%) require hybrid working employees to be in the workplace for a minimum number of days in the working week/month, while 46% do not.
- Employees are most likely to be required in the workplace for two (35%) or three (33%) days a week.
There’s been an increase in demand for homeworking
- Almost half (46%) of employers say the number of people wanting to work from home has increased over the last 12 months. Just 5% say it has decreased.
- Around three-fifths (59%) say that they can easily support the number of people wanting to work from home, yet a fifth (21%) are struggling to support this. This is particularly the case in the public sector (28%) (private: 20%; voluntary: 12%).
Organisational productivity remains positive
- Almost two-fifths (38%) of organisations say that more home/hybrid working has increased their organisation’s productivity/efficiency. Just 13% say it has decreased their organisation’s productivity/efficiency. This shows an increase in the net satisfaction score (2023: +25; 2021: +23; 2020: +10).
- Employee productivity also remains positive, with almost half (46%) thinking that employees in their organisation are generally more productive when they are working from home/in a hybrid way. This has increased from 43% in a similar CIPD survey in 2021.
Organisations continue to invest in hybrid working
- A fifth (20%) of organisations are seeking to put in place additional measures or investment to enable more hybrid or homeworking in the next six to 12 months.
- Organisations are looking to implement a range of measures of support – most notably making their offices more collaborative spaces (44%), a greater investment in the quality (40%) and quantity (40%) of technology, and more line manager training (38%).
Wider impact of hybrid working
When looking at the wider impact of hybrid working, employers are most likely to say it has brought a positive impact for:
- attraction and retention of talent (+61)
- ability to recruit from a wider geography in the UK (+62)
- ability to recruit a more diverse workforce (+53)
- employee financial wellbeing (+53).
They are most likely to say it has brought a negative impact for:
- employee connection to organisation purpose (−21)
- ability of managers to lead teams effectively (−18)
- the culture of the organisation (−3).
Employers are more concerned about inclusion risks than employees
- Thirty-nine per cent of employers are concerned about inclusion risks if employees move to home or hybrid working.
- Just 20% of employees are concerned about being treated less favourably if they work from home/in a hybrid way, compared with colleagues always in the workplace.
Employers are split on whether there is pressure for employees to spend more time in the workplace
- Forty per cent of employers say there is a great deal/fair amount of pressure for employees to spend more time in the workplace, while 48% say there is not very much pressure or no pressure.
- For those experiencing pressure, the highest proportion (56%) say it is coming from senior leaders, and the main reasons are: thinking that being in the office improves connections and relationships (57%); people collaborate better in person (55%); and being in the office makes people more engaged (47%).
Read our 4 case studies to find out how other organisations are managing flexible and hybrid working:
- Zenith: Supporting and engaging leaders to balance the needs of the customer, team and colleagues
- Principality Building Society: Listen, learn and adapt
- Pearson: Embracing flexible working to future proof the business
- Scottish Water: Promoting work-life balance through flexible working
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