Flexibility is norm

Hybrid working helps retain staff, says study

home working
Home working is becoming the norm for half the labour force

More than half of Scots (54%) are now working in home and hybrid roles, but employers risk losing staff who are not benefiting from the greater flexibility of remote working, according to a new report.

Those in nursing, caring, transport and some leisure services have missed out on the gains that others have enjoyed from wider adoption of hybrid practices.

The Working Lives Study Scotland by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) says employers will need to consider providing more flexibility in order to retain staff amid widespread labour shortages.

The data points to the hugely positive impact that flexible working has on working lives. Just over three-quarters of Scots (76%) who work flexibly say that flexible working has had a positive impact on their quality of life.

Those working flexibly are also more likely to be satisfied with their job, and report better relationships with their managers and higher levels of job autonomy – all important parts of fair work. 

Many of those who worked full-time from home during the pandemic have now switched to hybrid working, with 15% of employees in Scotland working fully from home and 39% working in a hybrid pattern – with the majority of these workers working from home for 50% or more of their time. 

However, 31% of Scots work in roles that cannot be done from home, for example those in lower-paid roles in caring, leisure and other services, and a further 14% say that they do not want to work from home at all.  

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The CIPD is warning that organisations need to consider offering a variety of forms of flexible working, to make sure that they can retain employees in a challenging labour market, and to ensure fairness by enabling everyone to reap the benefits that flexible working affords. 

The report also highlights some of the downsides to flexible working. Scotland’s hybrid workers are struggling the most with work-life balance, with commuting time having a significant impact. Furthermore, the report finds that 61% of employees report some levels of overwork, and 14% of employees say they work 15+ more hours a week than they would like to.  

The 2022 report also notes a marked improvement in scores for employee voice, especially for those working in some of Scotland’s smaller businesses, which if sustained, would be a welcome consequence of the additional focus on communication through the pandemic. 

Other key findings from Working Lives Scotland 22 include: 

  • The tight labour market is reflected in higher job security and labour market confidence among employees, compared to the last two years.  
  • Only 35% of those earning less than £20,000 per year say they can keep up with their bills and credit commitments without any difficulties.  
  • 29% of employees feel that their work impacts negatively on their mental health, with 24% reporting negative impacts on their physical health. 
  • Over a third (34%) of employees feel their job offers good prospects for career advancement, while 55% believe their job offers good opportunities to develop their skills.  
  • 34% of all employees in Scotland report their workload as too heavy in a normal week, with even worse figures for key workers and senior managers.  
  • 19% of employees say they have no voice channel at all at work.  
  • Employees in the public sector are more likely to feel that they are in meaningful jobs, and those who feel they are doing useful work are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs. 

 Lee Ann Panglea, head of the CIPD in Scotland and Northern Ireland, said:  “We are at the heart of the transition to a post-pandemic workplace, with new ways of working now becoming embedded in our working lives.  

“Working Lives Scotland demonstrates the positive impact of home and hybrid working. But these are just two types of flexible working, and organisations really need to look at job design and consider how other forms of flexible working such as flexi-time, job sharing and reduced hours could work for those whose jobs cannot be done from home.” 

“People professionals in Scotland are well placed to drive the necessary change that will improve Scottish working lives and boost wellbeing, as well as productivity.” 

Marek Zemanik, CIPD’s Senior Public Policy Adviser in Scotland, who wrote the report, said:  “On many of the measures around Fair Work, we are seeing a return to pre-pandemic findings.

“However with employers facing challenges around skills and labour shortages and rising costs, and many employees worrying about the cost of living, we are all facing really challenging times in the year ahead. 

“Responsible organisations also need to look more widely at how they can make work better to support the wellbeing of their workers, which will in turn lead to more productive organisations and ultimately a stronger economy.” 

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