Making the case for the office

Three days a week in the office is the optimal hybrid working arrangement for culture and performance, research into employees’ experiences has found.

03 Oct 2023
by Suzanne Peck

In one corner are employers who insist their people are in the office five days a week. In the other corner are firms that are just not sure where they stand on hybrid working, so give no clear direction, and lament the loss of culture, innovation and ‘remember how we used to be pre-Covid?’ A new report from Ipsos Karian Box shares new data into the employee experience of hybrid working that will be invaluable to organisations looking to find their own ‘sweet spot’ for business success. IoIC President Suzanne Peck shares the report’s key messages.

Three days a week in the office is the optimal hybrid working arrangement for culture and performance, research into employees’ experiences has found.

Ipsos Karian Box – IoIC’s partners for the recent IC Index Report – just released their new report, Making the Case for the Office.

What sets this report aside from lots of other studies, reports and views on office hybrid working is the focus on the employee experience. It gives us clear data and analysis into the impact that hybrid and remote working is having on employees, workplace culture and performance.

IKB surveyed a representative sample of 1,400 full-time UK office workers and found that while most employees do not want to work full-time in the office, spending three days a week strikes the right balance for both workers and their employers.

Interestingly, there’s a big range of benefits found in the hybrid model. Those who spend three days a week in the office are more likely to have development conversations with their manager. Three days in the office gives the ideal combination of in-person collaboration, innovation, and career development opportunities, while still giving employees flexibility and a work-life balance.

Advocacy (whether employees would recommend their employer as a great place to work) peaks when employees spend four days per week at their employer’s location.

And employee engagement is 12 points higher if employees spend three-four days in the office compared to working exclusively or mostly from home.

Here’s my own top five from the key findings:

  • The majority of UK full-time office workers are already spending most of their time at their employer’s location. 67% of full-time office workers are spending three or more days a week at their employer’s location, with two in five based there full time.
  • However, only half (53%) are spending their preferred amount of time there.
  • Loneliness is higher among younger full-time office workers – especially when they spend more time working from home. 53% of 18–24-year-old full-time office workers who spend three days a week or less in the office report feeling always or frequently lonely.
  • Employees who spend more time at home report less strain and better work-life balance. 36% of office workers who work remotely report feeling under constant strain at work, compared to 45% of those who follow a hybrid work pattern, and 40% of those who spend all their time at a company location.
  • A smaller proportion of people come into their employer’s location regularly when their employer has a fully flexible approach. 60% of employees spend two to four days in the office when their employer has set ‘anchor days’, compared to only 35% when allowed full workplace flexibility.

So how is the report data useful for internal communicators?

The ‘What next?’ section at the end of the report argues that the evidence is compelling, that being in the office more is better for both employees and employers – useful proof points says IKB for a ‘manifesto for the office’ which can be used to build policies for getting employees back to the office.

The report urges firms to ‘bite the bullet’, to stop procrastinating over moving to a hybrid policy or insisting on more in-office days for fear of losing team motivation and engagement. The longer you leave it, the more entrenched employees will be in both their expectations and personal circumstances, the report says.

Throughout the report are useful thoughts and questions which could be valuable for internal surveys or within team meetings, opening up discussion and providing feedback to inform your firm’s stance, plus deeper understanding of what will make a difference to employees in motivating them to come into the office.

As so many firms continue to navigate this messy, new, future of work, this report give us data-driven insights and practical recommendations to generate honest and open conversations. And if this leads to the creation of more fulfilling and productive work and business success, it’s a potential gamechanger.

Making the case for the office (