A young man wearing a casual shirt in a bright room is wearing a headset and working at a laptop, symbolising hybrid working.
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Report: Hybrid working raises productivity, but still brings challenges

24 Nov 2021

A new PwC report suggests leaders have seen better workplace performance in the last 12 months but are concerned about how manageable the workload is.

While many organisations have performed better in terms of productivity during the pandemic, some leaders are concerned about the challenges posed by remote and hybrid working.

That’s according to new global research from PwC, which surveyed more than 4,000 business and HR leaders from 26 countries and regions.

The Future of Work and Skills survey showed that leaders who responded were concerned about building trust, the need for new skills and unmanageable workloads.

The discussion around remote and hybrid working has been taking place almost since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, when there was a mass shift to new ways of working for many companies. Now, as workplaces are looking at more long-term plans, it seems hybrid working is here to stay.

In Ireland earlier this year, an Ibec survey found that 81pc of respondents expected some form of hybrid working arrangement after the pandemic.

But according to PwC’s survey, less than a third of leaders strongly believed that they are building high levels of trust between workers and supervisors, despite almost 40pc agreeing that this trust is very important.

Unintended consequences

While 57pc of respondents to PwC’s survey said their organisation performed better against workforce performance and productivity targets over the past 12 months, this productivity increase may be linked to the unintended consequence of overworking.

Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said they were not fully confident that the workload is manageable enough for employees to make use of their personal time.

This echoes another survey from Aon earlier this year that showed burnout as one of the top concerns among employers in Ireland. According to another survey from earlier this year, almost 60pc of people said their mental health had suffered significantly during the pandemic.

While the increased productivity could be seen as a positive, employers will need to ensure that this is not coming as a result of overworking, otherwise the results will not be sustainable.

Changing work strategies

Outside of productivity and work-life balance, remote and hybrid working could also bring other challenges for employers, particularly around workplace strategies, automation and the need for new skills.

David Keane, director of people and organisation for PwC Ireland, said the changing workforce expectations and competitive talent markets are putting more emphasis on the role of leaders.

“The survey results also resonate in Ireland where we see similar trends. PwC’s 2021 Irish CEO survey revealed that, for eight years running, Irish business leaders are more concerned about skills shortages (75pc) than their global counterparts. At the same time, just a quarter (25pc) of Irish CEOs are prepared to invest significantly in leadership and talent development,” he said.

“Leaders must act quickly to strengthen their organisations for the most pressing people challenges and to prepare for the future of work. They need to listen to their people and to their desire to work flexibly while being responsive to employee burnout. All of this is critical to retaining and motivating employees.”

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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