Many employers and employees have experienced first-hand both the joys of enhanced flexibility remote working affords and the lack of a commute against pressures on wellbeing resulting from the feeling of living at the office and being unable to disconnect.
With the return to the office now well underway, many employers are adopting a hybrid working model, in which employees work in an individually hybrid way of splitting time between the office and remote work, or work in an organisationally hybrid way, with some on site and others exclusively remote. However, this model may introduce new challenges for some worker groups.
New joint Work Foundation and Chartered Management Institute research, titled Making hybrid inclusive and published on 13 October, identifies risks of lower visibility and lower access to networks, as well as training and development for working parents, carers, women and disabled people. This could impact career progression in the long term and may exacerbate inequalities for groups of workers who already struggled to progress to more senior roles prior to the pandemic.
Managers and senior leaders have a key role to play in mitigating these risks. A supportive working culture and role modelling of remote work by line managers and senior staff is pivotal in lowering barriers to access in the first instance, and in ensuring employees are recognised for their work regardless of where they do it. Therefore, it is important managers are trained in how to manage a hybrid workforce, and develop capacity to support the wellbeing and performance of staff who are working remotely.
Flexible working in the broader sense is essential in enabling under-represented groups to enter and stay in work. It is important employers seize this moment to rethink the types of flexibility they offer workers. Remote working is not suitable for every job, nor for every worker, but there are a range of other forms of flexibility, such as compressed hours, flexitime or job share that can be used to support employees to thrive at work.
Rebecca Florisson is a policy advisor at the Work Foundation