West Midlands firms struggle to implement hybrid working

Many medium-sized businesses in the West Midlands are still facing challenges in implementing hybrid working, according to new research.

Grant Thornton UK’s latest Business Outlook Tracker has revealed that, prior to the implementation of Plan B and the return of work from home guidance, hybrid working was being adopted by many of the region's firms.

The survey of mid-sized businesses found that a hybrid working approach, where people split their time between working remotely and in an office, was the most common working practice in early December with 88 per cent of the region’s businesses working this way.

Despite the vast majority of businesses operating in this manner, 20 per cent said that they were not yet finding it to be effective.

Problems included the difficulty in managing junior staff when they are out of personal contact.

Many firms said the loss of office culture, and the easy sharing of ideas, had proved damaging. Training had also proved to be more difficult when carried out remotely and many bosses said they believed the work-from-home rules had impacted on the mental health of some of their staff.

Hybrid and remote working, as well as the issues it can create, are likely to remain the norm for many businesses even after the scrapping of the Government’s work from home guidance.

James Brown, partner and practice leader at Grant Thornton UK in the West Midlands, said: “We know that hybrid working is an aspect of everyday business life that’s going to require careful management and planning for some time yet. Our experience of the past 20 months shows that it can have a number of benefits, ranging from saving costs on reduced office space to a better work-life balance, however it’s also important to acknowledge that many businesses in the West Midlands have been struggling to make this approach work for them.

“To be truly effective, hybrid working takes time and commitment to ensure that it delivers for each firm’s specific demands and business practicalities. It is reassuring to know that no business is facing this challenge alone, as the whole market is currently trying to find the best method for them that will ensure their people continue to feel connected and supported.

“Moving forwards, businesses will need to be open to evolving and questioning how they can make hybrid working more effective for them and their needs. This could be achieved in a number of ways, such as investing in new technology that helps teams to train, communicate and stay connected or providing additional guidance on how work is organised and co-ordinated. With further uncertainty likely in the form of changing government guidelines, the impact of the Omicron variant, inflationary pressures, supply chain confusion and rising energy prices, it’s going to be vital for businesses to remain flexible in how they work in order to respond quickly to new challenges.”

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