Firms told: accept hybrid working or lose staff

Companies in the UK that fail to offer continuing opportunities for flexible working have been warned they do so "at their peril" because they could end up losing valued staff.

The warning came after a survey of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by service provider Zen Internet showed that, in the post-pandemic era, three out of four workers wanted to retain some form of home working.And while the survey revealed that 86 per cent of respondents professed they were willing to offer continued hybrid working, few felt prepared to achieve this, with almost half of SMEs saying poor internet connection in workers' homes were a barrier.Additionally, 21 per cent of respondents said staff were unable to access the company system from home."While the government is promoting its ‘back-to-work’ message, the reality is that many small businesses are still facing the same issues of catering for new hybrid and home-working cultures," said the Zen report."This is being compounded against a backdrop of large employers who are enabling employees to continue to work in a flexible way.
(Holiday company) TUI, which last week told its UK staff that they only need to work from the office one day a month, is just one of thousands of major businesses enabling more flexible working longer term."Some smaller businesses are, however, taking steps to accommodate new ways of working. The survey found that 22 per cent said they were looking to invest in providing, or subsidising, better home connectivity for employees who work from home on a regular basis, while 39 per cent were looking at buying laptops and smart devices.Georgina Lord, managing director of the retail division at, said: “As the government gives the green light for workplaces to return to normal, businesses which take their eye off the ball when it comes to catering for long-term home working will do so at their peril – especially as a flexible workplace and systems to support hybrid working will be high up on many job hunter’s wish list.“There are clear indicators that it’s not a time to ditch digital advancement programmes that cater for home working."
Ms Lord said that as workers were now being given the all-clear to return to centrally located work spaces, organisations should re-evaluate their systems, IT and communications to ensure they could provide the remote working capabilities that meet the long-term needs of valued staff.“Successful hybrid working is happening where IT has become a core part of a business’ organisational strategy and a board level focus," she said.“From an employee perspective, the crucial thing moving forward is investing in the systems and infrastructure that mean they can work seamlessly from any location – moving to cloud-based solutions, upgrading employee broadband connections and ensuring that they have the right technology and devices to do their job from anywhere. “And it’s not just about getting the infrastructure right for employees – customers and suppliers also demand a seamless experience when dealing with remote workforces. Taking a holistic business and board level view to remote working will continue to be vital.“It is clear that the next two to five years will be crucial for many businesses when it comes to adapting to the so called new normal and being agile to adopt to new ways of working and new customer habits."Those organisations who embrace these new requirements will flourish, while others who revert back to old practices could struggle and lose their competitive edge as well as valued staff."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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