We are now on a path out of the pandemic, and businesses are evaluating the balance of office vs. remote vs. hybrid working. Whilst the role that the office environment previously played for assessment, on-boarding and working is still applicable, the ways in which this can be achieved are changing for many thanks to technological developments. Does the move to remote and virtual operation simply depend on the way an organisation needs to operate then? Or are costs, simplicity and experience the bigger influencers?
Around 50% of the UK workforce have been operating remotely for more than a year now through restrictions or other reasons. Many established home-working employees have been experiencing the benefits of increased productivity and flexible working; potentially even a better work-life balance as a result. But for those at the start of their careers, homeworking has been a different experience.
According to Leesman, the workplace researcher, under-25s have been the most negatively impacted by homeworking. Social connectivity, health, well-being, and ability to progress and learn on the job have all been affected. Employers also believe young people miss out on the “informal learning they would usually gain in meetings and overhearing conversations” from being in an office environment.
At TheTalentPeople, the employers we work with have echoed the concerns around inspiring, attracting, engaging, selecting, and onboarding talent in the right way via a virtual setting. While some have halted all work experience and new apprentices joining the business, others have transferred their early talent provision online to meet the needs of young people who want to start their career.
So, what is best for business and both established and early talent employees? The answer is… it depends. Sorry. But the type of organisation plays a huge part in the style of working required. With that in mind, here are some of the factors to consider for each approach.
Benefits for your business and employees include greater productivity, cost savings for both parties, decreased sickness absence, no commuting and greater flexibility. These are particularly big pluses for applicants and new starters who, above all barriers to entry, are heavily affected but a lack of confidence brought on by the new, unique and uncertain nature of being assessed for, or starting, a new career.
But this comes at the cost of a reduction in teamwork, collaboration and creativity, reduced visibility of workload, distractions, loneliness and the above adverse effect this is having on those under-25. It also may impact the effectiveness of your early talent programmes
Working in an office can increase social connectivity and allow collaboration and communication to be much easier. For young people, an office environment provides structure (a defined line between work and home), helps them learn time management and develops their interpersonal skills from watching colleagues interact.
However, an office environment is also not free of disruptions. A study found that a typical office worker is interrupted every 11 minutes, and it takes them 25 minutes to get back on task. You also must factor in commuting, reduced flexibility and increases in sickness absence.
With a hybrid model, you can get the best or the worst of both worlds. Drawing on office and remote working benefits, you will likely have better job satisfaction, increased productivity, better communication, and collaboration between colleagues.
However, individuals may find it difficult to maintain a productive routine with a lack of consistency and extra time needed to manage varying work schedules. It may not be possible for everyone across your business, causing animosity between colleagues, and you may incur extra IT costs maintaining both office and virtual working environments, not to mention the stress of cyber security and keeping data and individuals protected.
Whatever model you land on, it needs to be suitable for your business. We urge all employers reviewing their working styles to consider the impact it will have on the young people within your business and those soon to join. Ensuring an effective early talent employee experience is essential, enabling them to provide the most value for your business and set them up for a bright future.
For more information on this topic, we recommend you catch up on the discussion of May’s employer roundtable and sign up to the next roundtable session to take part in discussing the challenges and opportunities in early talent, like these.