Hybrid working in Scotland, what our new data shows
August 31, 2022
August 31, 2022

We’ve published a short white paper today outlining our latest research on what hybrid working currently looks like in Scotland, along with data-driven insights on how to get the best from it.

Our data from 1,000 Scottish workers in desk-based jobs, gathered in July, shows:

  • Nearly a quarter (23%) of desk-based workers say their employer has granted them complete freedom to work where they like.
  • 27% have been asked to work in the office at least one, two or three days a week.
  • 18% have been asked for a more general presence in the office each week, or month, without any prescribed number of days.
  • One in five (22%) cannot work from home at all and are expected to return to the office full-time.

Interestingly, we found a difference between people given freedom to choose when they came to the office, compared with those asked to come in a set number of days. Those with more freedom were actually more likely to work in the office more often than requested, while those with stricter rules were more likely to come in less than requested. Those with more freedom were happier and more likely to recommend their workplace to friends or family too.

Lee’s story

Lee Robertson, Senior Manager for Digital Services at the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), is able to work in a very flexible hybrid way, choosing with her team when people work in the office. Lee says this means she’s able to work full-time hours again without missing out on time with her young children.

Lee Robertson, Senior Manager for Digital Services at the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS)

She said: “Before Covid we were allowed to work one day a week from home, and the rest had to be in the office. My commute to the office in Edinburgh often took an hour each way. There were times I had to leave the house before my children were awake, which I hated, and it was stressful worrying about getting in, or back to nursery, on time.

“While we had flexitime, this was only between 7am and 7pm, and you had to log everything in a system that showed in red or green whether your hours were on track. My life as a working parent meant I’d often finish tasks later in the evening once the children had gone to bed, but I couldn’t log that time as it was too late in the day. I felt I was always rushing around, operating at a stressful level with my clocked hours in the ‘red zone’.

“When Covid arrived and we all had to work from home permanently, it was like a really loud noise had been turned off in my head. It was such a relief. I hadn’t realised how much the commute had been affecting me. Suddenly I had two extra hours to my day, and while it was a huge juggle looking after the children and getting work done, it was so much better than the stress of commuting.

“Now I work mainly from home and I go into the office roughly once a month for collaborative tasks like team meetings and to brainstorm ideas. There’s no mandate. It’s up to me and the team to decide. I also mark in my diary to have no meetings between 3pm and 5pm so I can pick-up my boys, sort their dinner and spend some time with them while I dip in and out of emails. And then if I need to, I work later in the evening. I can even fit in some morning or lunchtime runs these days too, which wouldn’t have been possible before.

“We don’t have to log hours anymore either. The focus is on what we’re actually achieving, which feels much more useful, and less stressful.

“For me, it’s the perfect arrangement. It means I’ve been able to go back up to full-time hours, which is good for our family finances, and good for GTCS. And I still get to see my children more too. It’s a win-win.”

Lee had been working 30 hours (the equivalent to four days) over five days before and during the pandemic.

Employer’s perspective:

Director Jennifer Macdonald said: “Our working culture was quite traditional before Covid, so the pandemic has been a brilliant opportunity for us to change.

“Almost everyone worked from home during Covid restrictions, and there was no noticeable impact on service delivery. As we came out of lockdown, we knew there was no way we’d be asking everyone to come back to the office full-time.

“We trust teams to decide their own protocols on when they intend be in the office. There’s no overarching rule on number of days, though we did discuss this. In the end, the feedback from staff, and intel on what was working elsewhere, was that a more trusting and flexible hybrid model would be better.

“We’re four months in and about to start evaluating how it’s working for people. We want to make sure we’re still staying connected as a whole staff team, and that we support staff wellbeing.

“We’re also working on how we monitor and manage performance effectively when people are working remotely. We know that judging someone’s performance on the number of hours they spend in an office is meaningless. What we achieve when we are at work – our output and impact – is what really matters. It’s a big culture change.

“One of the main benefits for us as an employer, as well as having happier staff, is that we can recruit from a far wider geographical pool if people don’t need to be in the office very often. That helps with our inclusion and diversity aims too and will help us be more representative of Scotland as a nation, rather than Edinburgh where our office is.”

The General Teaching Council for Scotland employs nearly 70 people, and the vast majority have a large amount of flexibility over where and when they work.


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