Hybrid working? Buckle in, there's no turning back as survey takers insist: You can't make us go back

No, literally, let's make illegal

Four in five Brits wants to make it illegal to force employees to work from the office, according to an extensive survey, providing further evidence that a shift in working patterns may be permanent.

More than a year since the start of the first national lockdown, staff are becoming used to the idea of swapping their daily commute for an extra hour in bed and booting up their tech wearing a dressing gown and slippers.

So keen are they on the kimono and slipper combo it seems they may even want it enshrined in law.

According to security outfit Okta – which canvassed the views of 10,000 people in Europe including 2,000 Brits – more and more people want to choose the way they work.

“Many Brits have spent more than a year following the rules and working from home,” said Samantha Fisher, head of dynamic work at Okta.

“Going forward, it’s clear they want the freedom to work on their own terms, whether that’s returning to the office, working remotely, or a mix of both.

“A change in legislation would put the choice in the hands of employees, and give organisations the opportunity to undertake assessments, re-evaluate processes, and enable better methods that support working across a multi-location strategy,” she added.

Digging a little deeper, it seems Brits prefer permanent remote working more than their European chums, with one in five (19 per cent) hoping to permanently ditch the commute-to-the-office-and-clock-watch-until-it’s-time-to-bugger-off-home vibe.

Four in 10 Brits (43 per cent) can’t seem to make up their minds and would prefer, instead, to opt for a hybrid approach splitting their time between home and the office.

For those happy to return to the workplace, it seems they want the reassurance of social distancing, sanitised desks and tech kit, and greater flexibility when it comes to the daily commute.

From many people, least of all readers of El Reg, the survey findings will come as no surprise and merely mirrors – to a greater or lesser degree – their own experiences of the last year and a bit.

Yesterday, for example, Zoom [PDF] reported a huge jump in Q1 revenue of 191 per cent year on year to $956.2m.

Announcing the figures, CEO Eric S Yuan said that “work is no longer a place” and that the company was ready to “help lead the evolution to hybrid work that allows greater flexibility, productivity, and happiness to both in-person and virtual connections.”

A life without Zoom video conferencing calls would no doubt widen the smiles on many people's faces.

Elsewhere, SAP – which claims to have "embraced a location-agnostic work style for decades" - has become the latest employer to harness flexible working. In a statement yesterday the company said it pledged to "provide a setup that fits every role, style, and location with… a 100 per cent flexible and trust-based workplace as the norm, not the exception."

In other words, SAP is more than happy for its 100,000-workforce to sign up to hybrid working following a show of hands from staff working at the German giant.

Last month, Forrester published details of its reading of the tea leaves adding further weight to this shift in working patterns. While it noted plenty of benefits, it cautioned against a one-size-fits-all approach.

J.P. Gownder, VP, principal analyst wrote: “Our research shows that a variety of employee experience (like flexibility, autonomy, and lessened commutes) and business benefits (like higher retention rates and long-term recruitment advantages) will accrue to companies that master this opportunity.”

In a sense, that’s what this is all about. As has been pointed out plenty of times before, working from home for many office workers was a short-term fix. As individuals emerge blinking into the sunlight following COVID-19, decision-makers will be scratching their heads trying to figure out how best to proceed. It’s not just an IT issue but something that involves a legal, regulatory, financial and human response as well.

As Ian Lowe, head of industry solutions EMEA at Okta points out, “one thing is for certain: we’re never going back to the way things were before.” ®

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