Is this the end of the hybrid working era?

Boots the shop, the blog post is on Boots ending hybrid working for their employees in England UK

Boots UK has ordered 3,900 staff members back to the office from 1st September. Following the moves of other large corporations including Nationwide.

Is this signal that the hybrid working era is ending or are businesses shooting themselves in the foot? Boots and Nationwide may see themselves struggling to recruit, especially with employees putting flexible working arrangements at the top of their lists besides salary.

Working from home works for business gives flexibility and helps with the good old work-life balance, particularly for working mothers and fathers. Could they be the most affected in this situation? Don’t worry Gen-Z, we know this will still impact you and those without kids, but another hour or two of commuting adds to ever-increasing childcare bills.

Did you know, 2 children in childcare for 5 days full-time could cost close to £2k per month?

Why Boots are ending hybrid working arrangements.

So back to Boots, what do they want and what are the “benefits” being offered? Want better Wi-Fi and IT systems? YES, they are doing that now, a literal necessity of a job. That’s no benefit! Improving car parking facilities, does that mean it’s going to be free or are you adding 2 extra days of commuting costs to employees? Just for you to have the “fun and spirited” atmosphere in the office!

 The main reason for Boots CEO Seb James, removing hybrid working is a strategic business move as Boots US owner Walgreens Boots Alliance is considering the options for Boots UK. The options will likely be a sale or flotation on the London Stock Exchange, with an expectant value of £ 7 billion.

James has also said being in the office allows for more informal conversation and it’s easier to organise face-to-face group meetings. Two aspects are necessary for maintaining and enhancing company culture.

You may be thinking, why can this not happen on the 3 days people are already in the office, does 2 days at home make a significant difference?

Boots creating a reputation for backward thinking?

Full-time office-based feels outdated, people are more shocked at someone working full-time in the office compared to hybrid working. Giving a business a reputation for backward thinking, as they aren’t keeping up with the latest workplace trends.

A survey by Start-ups showed that 12% of firms were planning to trial a four-day work week in 2024, looking to improve employee wellbeing. Asda announced in January their plan to trial 4-day weeks, a business strategy to improve the company’s working conditions following mass walkouts from senior staff.

Employees are emphasising working from home over pay, meaning if a role has higher money but is full-time office based, the candidate may opt for the lesser money with the ability to work from home.

Another report by Start-ups identified that flexible working may save your job, with 38% of fully in-office firms surveyed having made job cuts in the previous year, however, compared to remote teams where only 16% had made job cuts in 2023.

Time to stop fighting the flexible working revolution, as companies continue to struggle to find the right talent for roles – if you are fighting flexible working you may be lowering your chance further of hiring strong candidates. For example, Disney and Starbucks both were changing their hybrid working policies but backtracked this following employee response.

Hybrid working and Employee Wellbeing

The Office for National Statistics released figures in February, which showed that the UK broke records with £2.8 million inactive due to long-term sickness. One in five employees surveyed by YouGov needed to take time off due to mental health issues caused by levels of pressure and stress.

Hybrid working may reduce stress related to commuting and office politics, giving employees the ability to create a working environment to suit their preferences helping to reduce work-related stress. Employees will have more time to spend with family or on hobbies such as cooking or gym, all helping to improve their well-being.

We ran a poll on LinkedIn, asking the audience if they would find a new job role if their employers removed hybrid working. 73% of 89 respondents said they would opt to find a new role if hybrid working wasn’t an option. In this poll we also asked if people were already full-time office, 18% of the 89 votes were full-time office, leaving only 9% who would stay if hybrid working was removed.  

Going off these results, imagine 73% of your workforce looking for new roles if you remove hybrid working, would you be able to replace them all?

Will Boots backtrack?

It has been rumoured that Boots employees have turned on their “open to work” on LinkedIn, if Boots experience a mass walkout this may impact the value of the business and reputation. Furthermore, a mass walkout may make the business unable to function at the necessary capacity to meet customer service needs.

For example, Starbucks’ employees signed an open letter in protest to the return to the office 3 days a week stating it would impact productivity negatively, morale and sustainability. 

Boots will want to monitor productivity and absence levels to evaluate if the full return to office is having a positive or negative impact.

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