It was great to see so many people at our hybrid working event this month.
We shared some of our new research findings on what hybrid working really looks like in Scotland, and heard from two employers on their approaches to hybrid.
If you were there, you’ll know we had lots of questions. And we ran out of time…
We’ve tried to follow up on as many more questions as we can below. And encourage you to contact us directly if you need more help.
What did our research say?
- 71% of all Scottish office workers have been offered hybrid
- 60% are using hybrid
- 29% have no choice but to work in the office
- The average number of days all Scottish office workers spend in the office is 6
- The average number of days people who’ve been offered hybrid spend in the office is 1
There’s a whole lot more in our report too.
Who else spoke?
Silka Patel, Social Value Manager at IT and defence firm Leidos, talked about how the company encouraged staff to spend meaningful time together. She covered how the company looked for ways to increase in-person social time from group litter picking and bike rides to deliveries of breakfast bacon butties from the local Salvation Army. Food is a big draw! The company has also refurbished its office to make it feel lovely to work in, and more suitable for collaborative and creative team tasks. But Leidos has also been honest with people that if they don’t use the office, the company can’t afford to keep it all.
Thought has also been given to workers who are mostly, or wholly, remote. A series of webinars and online events help them feel connected too.
Gillian Goldie, Head of People and Organisational Development at Scottish Enterprise talked about how the public sector body has monitored and evaluated the impact of hybrid working. Gillian said they reviewed their approach to hybrid after six months and a year, and their analysis included information from all staff surveys, focus groups with a wide range of employees, recruitment and retention data, sickness and absence data as well as looking at overall business outcomes to assess any impact on delivery.
Line managers and employees feel that hybrid and other flexible ways of working have had a neutral or positive impact on productivity. They continue to have strong employee health and wellbeing scores.
We encourage employees to work collaboratively with each other face to face when they’re in the office – but when they do come in, many tend to sit at their office desks with headphones on Teams calls to colleagues working at home. Any ideas on how we can facilitate better face-to-face collaboration in the office?
- Silka said: “Run ‘lunch & learn’ sessions that are fun and inclusive – make the topics broad and engaging, for example a fun facts quiz to get to know your colleagues, or ask your staff network to host sessions, provide some lunch! Or you could try an afternoon tea session, or an ‘ask me anything’ or a ‘state of the nation’ session where you invite a leader to talk and engage with employees via a Q&A.”
- Gillian said: “Think about doing work where it is best delivered. If you are on back-to-back calls or doing a ‘focus’ task, doing this in a quiet space, or at home, may work better. If you want colleagues to work collaboratively, you want to encourage them to think about the activities where they need to connect (i.e. there is a clear reason for coming together face-to-face) and arrange activities around this, for example team meetings, a new project kick off, planning events, or supporting a new colleague. Alongside, as Silka says, have social, development or fun activities – they are also a great way to pull colleagues together.”
- At Flexibility Works, we’d add that employers should regularly talk to individuals in 1-1s to understand more of about what’s going on for them. Having conversations about two-way responsibility can also be helpful, reminding people they have a lot to share with others, and that they can learn from others too, no matter how senior they are. Team charters are a good way for teams to agree what specific tasks they meet for in-person, and how often. They can also detail which tasks don’t need this. Everyone gets a say in the discussion, and people should be very clear afterwards about what’s expected.
Any tips on how we deal with those who are not coming in despite them knowing the expectation is to come in?
- Silka suggested using a 1-1 meeting to try and get to the root cause of why they don’t want to come int. There may be a really good reason why. She also said employers should be careful of the language they use. If people are ‘mandated’ to come in, the wording may inadvertently annoy workers, whereas more collective wording could be more effective.
- From a Flexibility Works perspective, we’d add there’s a conversation here about the importance of sharing that person’s knowledge, and their responsibility to support others in the team or wider organisation. Also employers need to think about their comms messaging so it’s not just about expectations around coming to the office but also explains the purpose of coming to the office.
I’ve got lots of members who are really struggling to identify how they can support flexible working whilst also managing team member expectations.
- When we (Flexibility Works) work with employers, we usually find workers are much more realistic about what’s possible and reasonable in their role than employers give them credit for. People generally understand that flexible working will be different in different roles, and they don’t mind – so long as they have as much flex as is possible in their own role and the process for getting the flex is fair across the organisation.
What are organisations doing to monitor health, safety and wellbeing at home working locations – e.g. DSE assessment, mental wellbeing, etc.?
- Gillian said: “On health and safety, we have continued to review our existing metrics and found that hybrid working had no impact. All colleagues are required to undertake the DSE (Display Screen Equipment) assessment every two years. For those who primarily base themselves from home we ensure they have the appropriate equipment required to do their role. Through surveys on hybrid working and our ongoing employee engagement survey, we are constantly monitoring wellbeing.”
- You may find this guidance from the Health and Safety Executive on home working useful.
How do speakers know if their employees have childcare responsibilities? Do they do anything specifically to set a family-friendly culture and encourage fathers to take up policies?
- Silka said: “It’s a question marked as optional in our on-boarding survey. But we also run a SELF-ID campaign with quarterly communications reminding people to update their data. The more they are willing to disclose to us the better we can make our programmes, policies and offerings to our employees.
“We also run bi-annual panel sessions through our Women’s Network. These are open to all and showcase people who have taken advantage of our family friendly policies. We make sure we have a diverse representation in terms of speakers, ie. fathers who have taken paternity leave, people who have taken adoption leave etc.”
- Gillian said: “Similar to Leidos, we have family friendly policies that support those with family and caring responsibilities. We promote these policies and also have My Communities groups that we work with.”
Would there be scope for Leidos and SE to develop case studies for use by workplace advisers like myself? These would be very useful!
- Yes, we will follow this up at Flexibility Works. In the meantime, you might find some of our other employer and worker stories of use.
I’ve just heard (on the grapevine) a major employer in Edinburgh has just declared there will now be a requirement to work 3 days in the office citing the complete opposite to everything discussed today. What would you say this employer?
- At Flexibility Works, we’d ask about how they’ve reached this decision – what data did they use? Did they include any staff survey feedback? And we’d suggest they monitor the impact – as Gillian described – and keep an open mind. If staff surveys show in six months’ time that staff are less happy and feel less productive, the employer would have some data evidence to shift its approach.
For workplaces that would like staff to come in 2 or 3 days a week is, this pro-rated for part time staff?
- Most employers that talk to us at Flexibility Works say they use a pro-rata approach to start with, so if they’d like full time staff in two days a week (40% of their time), then someone who works two days a week in total would need to be in about half a day a week. Obviously that kind of arrangement might feel too ‘bitty’ for workers and/or employers, so we recommend a more case by case approach where teams talk together about what they want to meet in person for, and how frequently, and this gives a better context for how a part time hybrid role can and should fit with the rest of the team.
- Silka said: “It’s a flex culture we operate at Leidos, so it really depends on the role that needs to be done. It’s about clear communications between the line manager and the employee, and they are given the flexibility to make it work for them as long as the work gets done.”
- Gillian said: “We speak on percentage terms, so this is pro rated for part-time colleagues.”
Where do I go for more information on health and wellbeing programmes?
- If anyone is interested in implementing a health & wellbeing programme of initiatives here in Scotland, please contact your local NHS Health Promotion Service Workplace Team.
- Paths for All do a great Step Count Challenge twice a year too.
I’d be really interested to see some of your survey questions
- Our report uses a lot of the exact wording we asked office workers. If this isn’t enough. Get in touch with us directly and we’re happy to share more detail.
What proportion of your organisations that you surveyed were public sector?
- We didn’t ask in this survey what sector people worked in. But previous research we’ve done usually gives us about 40% in the public sector.