Hybrid work ‘benefit’ threatens staff dissent

With Scotland seeing the biggest increase in working from home of any region in the UK in the first quarter of this year, a recruitment expert warns of a growing gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ hybrid employment.

Ivor Campbell, of Sneddon Campbell, based in Stirlingshire, said working from home exacerbates inequalities, with older and more experienced staff benefiting at the expense of their younger junior counterparts. Like stock options, company cars, and private health insurance, hybrid arrangements become a “benefit” for higher-ranking staff while presenteeism continues to prevail in the lower echelons.

“What we are seeing is a divide in the way remote and in-office work is offered to different categories of employees,” said Mr Campbell, whose company specializes in recruitment for the medical technology industry.

“Nearly all of the positions we fill for senior executives and expert scientists and engineers now have one thing in common: the ability to work remotely.

“We specifically ask candidates if they can work remotely and if so, when. We wouldn’t have done this two years ago. It wouldn’t have occurred to us as it wasn’t a problem. Now, we’re more likely to ask someone if they can work remotely than if they have a driver’s license. »

ivor campbell

However, he said bosses are less inclined to let younger employees work from home due to concerns about their productivity and development.

“Senior managers in their 50s and 60s, who have spent their careers in offices, want to be able to manage people they can see in person,” Campbell said. “Some people want to have a ‘dealing room’ with a bit of buzz, with shared ideas, and they don’t think you can do that on Zoom.”

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows Scotland saw the biggest increase in working from home of any region in the UK between January and March compared to pre-pandemic levels. The additional 500,000 people working from home equated to an increase of more than 200%.

Commenting on the figures last month, accountancy group PwC said its own research showed that two-thirds of Scottish employees able to work remotely currently do so “all or most” of the time.

“But not all employees are capable of hybrid or home working, including 46% of those we surveyed as part of our research,” said Jason Morris, regional market leader.

READ MORE: Work from home – Most workers want to continue

“Sectors like hospitality, travel, care and retail need people in restaurants, on planes, etc. Our results show that these types of employees are less satisfied with their jobs than those working in hybrid or fully remote environments. »

Mr Campbell said ONS data shows the ability to work from home is directly linked to an individual’s income, with those on low incomes being up to five times less likely to be able to work remotely. Between April 27 and May 8, only 6% of low-income households in the UK reported working from home, compared to 12% of middle-wage earners and 23% of those earning £40,000 or more.

“The planned massive return to office work has not materialized, with significant numbers continuing to work from home, but the headline numbers mask a divide,” he said.

“Our results confirm that you are more likely to be offered the opportunity to work from home if you are in a management position in a science or technology company with the appropriate infrastructure. There, you are more likely to convince your boss that you should work remotely.”

Mr Campbell further warned of a potential increase in disaffection in companies where there is still a presumption of presenteeism among junior staff: “As wages are squeezed by inflation, particularly in transport and fuel, the burden of taking 10 hours out of your life every week traveling on an expensive train, bus or car so you can get to your employer’s office only to have Zoom meetings with them from their kitchens is becoming less and less acceptable .

Maria D. Ervin