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Hybrid working – are we heading for a September showdown?

Work ‘2 days a week’ in the office

The Civil Service it seems is to lead the charge to return to the office, though it’s done a fairly dismal job of that so far with only 20% of their staff returning following the ‘end of lockdown.’ The service has instructed employees to attend 2 days per week, or 40% of a full time employee’s time. It is difficult to gauge the scale of returners in the middle of the British summer holidays, but some analysists are estimating city-centre attendance at less than 12% of pre-pandemic levels, and the Telegraph reported that google activity-data at the beginning of August showed a decrease in activity around offices, even after the end of restrictions was called.

Midweek hotel bookings surge

In the meantime city centre hotels are reporting a boon in 1 and 2 night single person mid-week stays, the Sunday Times speculated that this was the result of families relocating outside of cities to take advantage of hybrid working, but expecting to attend their employer’s offices at lease a day or two a week. By staying in a hotel, workers will reduce the commuting time from their new country residences.

If it is here to stay, hybrid working will undoubtedly have an impact on those city centre businesses that exist to support large populations of office-workers, and we are likely to see a significant change in city’s infrastructure as more companies, like BP who recently sold their London offices, reconsider the role of the office.

But the contractual commitment to work in the office has not gone away…

More immediately though will be the inevitable tensions that will materialise in September when employers are expected to start insisting on a level of office presence. The pandemic forced a change in working practices, and while that is likely to stay, we should remember that most employees will have gained their employment on the basis that they will work from their employer’s office. That contractual commitment has not simply dissolved, and while some employees may seek to achieve a change to their employment contracts via flexible working requests, it is far from certain whether employers will roll over en masse.

Rishi appeals to younger employees to return to the office

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has added his weight to the debate, expressing his view that, for young people in particular, a physical presence in the office was essential for their career development, as long of course as the people they need to learn from were also there. September’s coming. We shall see.

HR support for return to the office plans

If you need help forming your return to the office plans you might consider consulting myHRdept first. We’re working with a number of our clients on their return to office plans, and our HR support services includes drafting temporary variations to allow a trial of hybrid working patterns, without being permanently committed. In many cases this will be covered by our retained HR support services without further charge.

If you’re thinking of outsourcing your HR or employment law needs, why not contact myHRdept? Call us on 01628 820515 to discuss your requirements or contact us and we’ll call you back.



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