The survey of 601 mid-sized businesses found that a hybrid working approach, where their people split time between working remotely and in an office, was the most common working practice in the mid-market in early December with 88% of businesses working this way.
Despite offices having been able to re-open for a few months, only 5% of the businesses surveyed were working full time in an office and only 6% were spending all their time working remotely.
Of the 531 businesses adopting hybrid working, the majority (64%) believed that it was working well for their business. However, a significant portion of the market were still adapting, with one in five (19%) not yet finding it effective.
The research finds that the main working style challenges for the next year, cited by those respondents who were adopting a hybrid working approach, are:
“For many, the pandemic has caused a fundamental shift in how we work, with work no longer a location, but simply what we do. It’s clear that hybrid working is here to stay and it can offer many benefits to companies and their people, from saving costs on reduced office space to a better work-life balance, but, as our research shows, it does not come without its challenges.
“It needs time and commitment to be truly effective and there is no one size fits all approach. The whole market is on a learning curve to experiment and find the best method that works for them and ensure their people continue to feel connected and supported by their business and their teams, wherever they work. For example, while the office will remain the centre of gravity at Grant Thornton, how it’s used is changing, with a greater focus on activities that work less well in a remote setting such as onboarding, collaboration and networking.
“But this is not set in stone. Businesses need to be open to evolving their approach by continuing to listen to their people and challenging themselves as to how it can be made more effective – for example investing in technology to support and better connect a hybrid workforce and providing guidance on how team’s co-ordinate time in the office so more junior members know when in-person support will be available.
“With government guidance continuing to change, increasing uncertainty from the new Omicron variant and many businesses still only formulating or starting to cement their new working approach, confidence is likely to waver in the market. But this uncertainty in the external environment is not likely to change. Businesses need to ensure flexibility in their approach which allows them to respond quickly and be ready to revert to remote working as needed, in line with changing guidance - as it did this week.”
*The Grant Thornton Business Outlook Tracker is a bi-monthly survey of mid-market businesses. Censuswide (on behalf of Grant Thornton UK LLP) surveyed 601 senior decision makers in UK mid-market businesses between 26 November – 6 December 2021. The UK mid-market is defined as companies with an annual turnover between £50million - £500million.