Making hybrid working work across the City
Last month, ACCA published our inaugural Global Talent Trends 2023 survey, which shared valuable insights into workplace trends and practices from more than 8,400 professional accountants around the world. We found that out of all the topics covered in the report, hybrid working attracted the most attention.
This deep interest in hybrid work models is not surprising given many companies – including major employers like Apple and Amazon – are still trying to figure out how to apply them in practice. ACCA’s research highlighted a couple of significant challenges. While most employees (70 per cent) believe they are more productive when working remotely, nearly half (47 per cent) find it harder to collaborate while over a third (34 per cent) admit to feeling more disengaged from their manager.
The collaboration and engagement challenges associated with hybrid working help to explain why a fifth of UK accountants, and more than half of accountants globally, still work full time in the office. This is despite most respondents to our research (87 per cent) saying they would like to work remotely for at least one day a week. Additionally, the data indicates that workers with hybrid arrangements are less likely to suffer from mental health issues, meaning a lower chance they will take time off work.
International Women’s Day, yesterday, is an important time to note the differences for women, who are more likely to believe they are more productive when working remotely. Female workers are also less likely than their male counterparts to struggle with collaboration or engagement. That said, it’s important to emphasise that both men and women are strong advocates of hybrid working, which suggests the practice could contribute to a more inclusive and gender-equal workplace in future. Overall, our data suggests finance professionals working in hybrid roles are happier and less likely to leave their organisations.
Rethinking the employer value proposition
Going forward, hybrid working will be fundamental to the employer value proposition for many employers, although it’s important to note that it’s a luxury that is not practical for all sectors and professions. But for those where it is possible, including many in finance and accountancy, what is preventing more employers from adopting the model today? And how can we make hybrid working work more effectively, for both employers and employees? How can employers provide the leadership that is so important to making it a success?
A recent webinar hosted by ACCA offered some useful pointers. Firstly, employers should recognise that there is no one-size-fits-all model for hybrid working. Different organisations will need specific approaches that fit with their own culture and needs. They should also engage with their people to determine the model that will work best for them, being mindful of risks relating to data protection and proximity bias (where managers favour employees they see face-to-face).
Furthermore, hybrid working is not just about where people work, it is also about how and when they work. So, it’s essential to equip employees with the right technological tools to collaborate – while providing clear guidance for how to use these tools and recognising that no one wants to spend their working day in back-to-back online meetings.
Finally, if employers want to encourage their employees to interact in person, they need to reimagine their physical workspaces. Workspaces must be destinations that people actively want to spend time in, and employers should create reasons for people to come into the office – whether that’s to collaborate on a project, celebrate a success, or participate in certain types of training. Face-to-face meetings can also be useful for onboarding new joiners and facilitating mentoring.
At ACCA, we have had a very positive experience of adopting hybrid working practices. We’ve adopted what we describe as a ‘blended approach’, where most of our employees work mainly from home, but we use our offices to enable people to gather physically where there is a clear need and desire, and to ensure they have a choice of workplace. We believe that work is about productivity, not visibility, and we have found that hybrid working has boosted the effectiveness of our globally distributed teams.
It’s important to bear in mind that we are all still learning and adjusting to the new reality. There’s no shame in taking a trial-and-error approach. By showing flexibility, sensitivity, and a willingness to communicate, employers will be best placed to develop a practical hybrid work model that reduces the stress felt by employees and enables them to be more productive and derive greater enjoyment from their jobs.
Hybrid working is ultimately a win-win for both employers and employees. It is good for employees’ mental health and helps previously excluded people to become more visible. At the same time, it brings greater choice to employers by enabling them to recruit from the broadest possible talent pool. It’s in everyone’s interests that we make hybrid working work.
Read the research at accaglobal.com/talenttrends2023