According to a new survey from XpertHR, 69.9% of organisations are still actively planning or considering permanent changes to where employees carry out their work as lockdown restrictions are lifted. Fewer than one in 20 (3.8%) are not contemplating any changes.


In what has been the biggest shift in how we work in recent years, the unprecedented nature of the pandemic has given employers the opportunity to innovate and consider new ways of working like never before. The message from HR practitioners in response to XpertHR’s survey was clear – working and the workplace will not return to the same form as prior to the pandemic. But where plans are now is unlikely to be where practice ends up. A thoughtful approach to changes is being taken, with employee wellbeing at the centre of the planning process.


The research found that for 27.0% of organisations the most influential factor on their organisation’s plan for the future of the workplace was a survey of employees’ preferences, followed by ensuring COVID-19 secure workplace/physical restrictions on workplace capacity (17.8%), and employee wellbeing (14.2%). Only 6.0% of organisations list cost savings as the most influential factor when it comes to plans for the future of the workplace.


Hybrid working features heavily in models being implemented or considered. Three in 10 (30.5%) organisations said all employees will be working on a hybrid basis, while one in 10 (10.5%) will have a mix of hybrid for some employees and fully remote working for others. Despite early headlines around a fully remote workforce, just 1.1% of XpertHR’s respondents are moving to a fully remote model, and 1.8% are moving to fully remote but with access to local hubs.


The move to hybrid working represents a significant challenge for HR, who see the following as key to its success:


  • Training and developing line managers to ensure that they have the skills required to manage hybrid and/or remote working
  • Monitoring wellbeing (including mental health) to ensure that all employees continue to feel connected to the business, irrespective of changes introduced to their working or workplace arrangements
  • Continuing to maintain positive levels of engagements
  • Managing employees who may be reluctant to return to the workplace


Noelle Murphy, senior HR practice editor at XpertHR, comments:


“The past 16 months have thrown HR professionals into unchartered waters, and this uncertainty continues as we step out of lockdown restrictions. HR are driving the move to new models and are looking to create strategies that facilitate teamwork, collaboration and connection. Using lessons learned over the past year or so, HR are approaching this new world of work thoughtfully, taking steps informed by the people who will be impacted by them most. Cost, senior leadership preferences, nor time seem to be the strongest influence on HR’s strategy. Instead, a focus on employees, their wellbeing, and their engagement is taking precedence.


“With such an opportunity to shape workplaces in a way never seen before, HR professionals need to make sure they can properly understand and keep up with the changes and desires within their own organisation, and the market. It’s vital that HR professionals arm themselves with the right tools, data, and guides as they step forward into this new world of work beyond the pandemic.”