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Hybrid working has helped improve employee wellbeing, work-life balance, and performance across the UK, according to a new global Cisco study. While organisations have benefited from higher employee productivity levels, more needs to be done to build an inclusive culture and fully embed hybrid work arrangements to boost readiness levels and enhance employee experience.
Cisco's "Employees are ready for hybrid work, are you?" study found that more than half (52%) of employees believe that quality of work has improved. A similar number (57%) felt that their productivity has enhanced. However, the survey of 1,050 employees in the UK reveals that about one in five think that their company is 'very prepared' for a hybrid work future.
"It is clear that hybrid working is here to stay, and for good reason as employees and businesses alike see tangible benefits across key indicators – from improved overall employee wellbeing to better productivity and work performance," said Jen Scherler-Gormley, Head of People and Communities, Cisco UK & Ireland. "Nonetheless, more needs to be done to fully leverage the opportunities of a hybrid work future, particularly in building an inclusive culture, devising employee engagement strategies, and deploying technology infrastructure to bring organisations to the readiness levels of their employees."
Hybrid working has improved various aspects of employee wellbeing
Cisco's research examined the impact of hybrid working on five categories of wellbeing – emotional, financial, mental, physical, and social wellbeing – with about three-quarters of respondents (72%) saying hybrid and remote working has improved various aspects of their wellbeing.
Time away from the office has improved work-life balance for 78% of employees. More flexible work schedules (57%) and significantly reduced or completely removed commuting times (63%) contributed to this improvement. Nearly two-thirds of people (63%) saved at least four hours per week when they worked from home, and over a quarter (27%) of respondents saved eight or more hours a week.
43% ranked 'time with family, friends, and pets' as the top choice for how they reinvested this extra time. This has enhanced social wellbeing, with a significant majority (65%) indicating that remote working has improved family relationships and about half (45%) of respondents reporting strengthened relationships with friends.
At the time of the survey, over three-fourths (78%) of respondents felt that their financial wellbeing improved because they could save money while working remotely. The average saving has been a little over £130.48 per week, which works out to £6,785 a year. A sizeable 89% ranked savings on fuel and/or commuting among their top three areas for savings, followed by decreased spending on food and entertainment at 72%. More than eight in 10 (84%) believe they can maintain these savings over the long term, and 66% would take these savings into account when considering changing jobs.
In addition, approximatively two-thirds (64%) of respondents believe their physical fitness has improved with remote working. About seven in 10 (69%) exercise more when they work remotely, with an average increase of 133 additional sessions a year. A similar number (56%) say hybrid working has positively impacted their eating habits.
Given the improvement in various aspects of wellbeing, an overwhelming majority (79%) of employees say the ability to work from anywhere has made them happier. Approximately half (45%) report that hybrid working has helped decrease their stress levels. Around a third (29%) find hybrid working more relaxing and the working environment less pressurised, while 32% of employees attribute the decreased stress to the greater flexibility offered by hybrid work arrangements.
However, not all reported positive experiences, with about half (43%) believing micromanaging behaviours had increased with hybrid and remote working.
Strategic and tactical rethink for organisations to better prepare for hybrid working future
With the evident benefits of hybrid working, the study shows that six out of 10 employees (60%) want a combination of a remote and in-office hybrid working model in the future. Around a sixth (16%) want a fully remote working experience, leaving a fourth (23%) who want to go to the office on a full-time basis.
However, there is uncertainty over how different work styles might impact inclusion and engagement. Over half of the respondents say that those who work fully remotely will have challenges engaging with their colleagues (58%) and company (56%), compared to those who toggle between remote and in-office work. Furthermore, the research finds that trust will be a critical element for organisations to manage – while 75% of respondents believe their manager trusts them to be productive when working remotely, a lower number (61%) believe their colleagues can be trusted to work remotely.
These findings underscore the need for an inclusive culture to be at the forefront of the hybrid working future. Three-quarters (75%) say their company needs to rethink its culture and mindset to make hybrid work truly inclusive. Key changes to support the hybrid workforce that employees would like to see greater flexibility in defining work hours (58%) and greater emphasis on employee wellness and work-life balance (56%).
At the same time, technology will remain critical to enabling a future with increasingly diverse and distributed workforces. About six out of 10 (57%) respondents believe having connectivity issues regularly is career-limiting for remote workers. As a result, 86% say networking infrastructure is essential for a seamless working from home experience, but only 65% say their company currently has the right networking infrastructure.
More than three-quarters (78%) also believe that cybersecurity is critical for making hybrid working safe, but two-thirds (67%) say their organisation currently has the right capabilities and protocols in place. Only 58% think that all employees across their company understand the cyber risks involved with hybrid work, and 67% think business leaders are familiar with the risks.