New research by Prospects at Jisc reveals what early talent think about hybrid and remote work, highlighting significant pros and cons.
Many graduate and apprentice roles were forced online during the pandemic as lockdown protocols and social distancing rules made it impossible for employees to work as normal.
While there’s been a more recent shift to encouraging people back in to the office, ISE’s Student Development Survey showed that graduates (72% employers) and apprentices (74% employers) still work at home one or two days a week.
Although many workers feel that hybrid working has had a positive impact on their lives, there are also downsides that must be acknowledged.
Prospects Early Careers Survey of nearly 5,000 students and graduates reveals what those working think about hybrid work.
Of the 1,645 respondents who said they were working, more than half said that they were either hybrid (38%) or remote (13%) working. Those who were more established in their careers (66%) were more likely to report this than those who were just starting out (48%).
Interestingly, the likelihood of remote or hybrid working appears to increase with level of education, with two fifths (39%) of those with an A or AS-level saying this, compared to 47% of those with an undergraduate degree and 66% with a postgraduate degree.
To learn about their experiences of hybrid and remote working, respondents were asked to answer two open-text questions regarding the positives and negatives that they had experienced while working from home or on a hybrid basis. Five major themes emerged.
1. Increased flexibility
A large proportion of respondents highlighted how happy they were with the flexibility afforded to them by hybrid/remote working, with many pointing out the increased autonomy that they have in their role because of their new working arrangements.
This was particularly important for parents and those tasked with household duties. Having the ability to work from home has endowed them with the freedom to manage their own schedules in a way that best suits them, allowing for a better work/ life balance.
Similarly, other respondents noted that it had given them a chance to build domestic chores into their workday, so that everything didn’t build up at the weekend.
2. Saving time and money
Respondents also emphasised the amount of time and money that they were able to save by not travelling to work on a day-to-day basis.
While some suggested that their utility bills had increased as a consequence of working from home, it was much more common for respondents to say that they were saving money.
Moreover, with the time saved on commuting, many could spend more time with family before and after work. Some even insisted that they could better take care of their mental and physical health as a result.
While some noted that they can get more rest in the mornings, meaning they were less drained when at work, others said that they are able to use the extra time to establish an exercise routine to care for their physical health.
3. Increased productivity
While many enjoy the office environment, some respondents suggested that the workplace can be too loud at times, making it difficult for them to concentrate on their work. They reported higher levels of productivity when working from home as they can concentrate more on their work.
On the other hand, some respondents reported that it is harder for them to focus when working from home as there are too many distractions, which ultimately make it more difficult for them to be productive.
4. Feelings of isolation
Although there was a lot of positive feedback about hybrid and remote working, some real issues need to be addressed.
Employers are still working through many of the implications of hybrid working, especially in terms of the mental wellbeing of workers. A sizeable proportion of respondents reported that they were feeling isolated as a result of their new working arrangements.
Some felt that working from home had contributed to a lack of team cohesion, making it harder to communicate and collaborate with colleagues.
And while some respondents did state that their wellbeing had been positively affected hybrid or remote working, a much larger proportion of respondents indicated that they were worried about the impact that increased levels of isolation could have on their mental health.
ISE’s Development Survey showed the majority of employers felt early talent mental health issues had increased.
Moreover, for those working on a hybrid basis, some claimed that the office environment had been negatively impacted by the increased popularity of hybrid working arrangements, suggesting that when they did go into the office hoping to interact with colleagues, the ones who they would normally socialise with weren’t always in present.
Consequently, they were still experiencing a certain level of isolation even when in the office. Concerns were also raised over how this will impact on new hires, specifically those in their early careers, noting how important a stable work environment is for the development of employability skills.
5. Harder to know when to switch off
For some, hybrid and remote working arrangements have blurred the lines between home and work life. Many reported that they were working longer hours and finding it difficult to know when to switch off, and some even suggested that they feel obligated to always be available, even after work hours.
As with any new developments in the workplace, there are upsides and downsides to hybrid and remote working arrangements. What has led to increased autonomy and productivity for some has also produced feelings of isolation and a lack of productivity for others.
The challenge for employers is to create healthy hybrid working environments for early talent, where they can benefit from the increased flexibility that comes with working from home, as well as the social interaction and collaboration that the workplace enables.
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