Navigating the Evolution of Work: Exploring Hybrid and Flexible Working Models

In the pre-COVID era, businesses were gradually recognising the importance of adapting their operations to accommodate the diverse needs and lifestyles of their employees. Flexibility emerged as a key strategy not only for retaining top talent but also for attracting new recruits and nurturing a supportive workforce environment.

There was a time when requesting flexibility in your work pattern seemed reserved for mothers returning to work or individuals experiencing significant life events. However, as organisations evolved, so did their approach to supporting their workforce. They began to recognise the diverse needs of their employees, extending flexibility to partners sharing childcare responsibilities and those managing the care of elderly or unwell loved ones. This initial shift marked the beginning of a journey towards prioritising employee well-being and achieving a healthy work-life balance.

We witnessed a gradual transformation as businesses adopted measures such as early finishes on Fridays, compressed workweeks, and even the ability to work from home one day a week. These changes reflected a growing awareness of the importance of addressing burnout and promoting employee well-being. Despite best efforts, the widespread adoption of these practices was hindered by the lack of infrastructure to facilitate remote work, leading many businesses to prioritise office-based operations.

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, catalysing a seismic shift in work dynamics as businesses worldwide transitioned to remote, online operations overnight. Life was turned upside down, and amidst our efforts to maintain business as usual, we discovered that many roles could be performed effectively from home. Moreover, we began to realise the numerous benefits accompanying this change, such as reclaiming time and money previously spent on daily commutes. This sudden realisation of the feasibility and effectiveness of remote work prompted a reevaluation of traditional working practices.

But where do we stand today, post-pandemic? What do companies mean when they offer flexibility? Or a hybrid work pattern? Why does it sometimes feel so complicated?

Hybrid working, also known as agile working, involves a blend of remote and in-office work. However, the specifics of hybrid models vary across organisations, influenced by factors such as business needs, culture, and office space considerations. The pandemic highlighted the adaptability of hybrid arrangements in navigating social distancing measures and accommodating individual preferences.

Moving forward, the benefits of hybrid working are evident:

  • Time and cost savings for employees due to reduced commuting.
  • Increased flexibility for those with caregiving responsibilities.
  • Enhanced collaboration facilitated by unified IT platforms.
  • A happier and more content workforce.

On the other hand, flexible working encompasses a broader range of adjustments to working patterns, including part-time work, compressed hours, and remote work. While employees currently require 26 weeks of continuous service to request flexible working, legislative changes are underway to grant day-one rights.

The advantages of flexible working are manifold:

  • Greater autonomy in work arrangements.
  • Improved work-life balance.
  • Support for caregivers and prevention of burnout.
  • Enhanced productivity, morale, and inclusivity.
  • Cost savings on office space.

The intersection between hybrid and flexible working unveils a multitude of benefits, indicating a growing demand for adaptable work arrangements. As employees, are we inclined towards prioritising flexibility, or does hybrid working resonate more? The evidence suggests that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Distinguishing between hybrid and flexible working is essential to understanding their place in your organisation:

  • Hybrid working primarily revolves around flexibility in the place of work, allowing employees to divide their time between the office and home.
  • Conversely, flexible working encompasses a broader spectrum, encompassing variations in working hours, location, and scheduling flexibility.
  • Notably, employees possess a statutory right to request flexible working, which encompasses adjustments to their place of work, mirroring the essence of hybrid working models.

Ultimately, the choice between hybrid and flexible working depends on individual and organisational needs. While hybrid arrangements focus on the location of work, flexible working encompasses various aspects of work arrangements.


Where have we seen great practice?


As we strive to work in ways that align with our preferences and priorities, it’s evident that organisations are adapting to meet the evolving needs of their workforce, all while navigating the demands of business operations. Examples of best practice within our industry can be seen from UK Space Agency and Viasat.

The UK Space Agency advocated for a job-share working arrangement amongst two of their chief staff, seeing Annelies Look ChPP, CEng and Chris White-Horne appointed as permanent Chief Delivery Officers and Deputy Chief Executives in this unique job share capacity. Chris and Annelies took on the role on an interim basis since September 2023, due to various personal obligations and circumstances, neither were able to take on the role full-time individually. A role of that stature is not able to be done on a part-time basis, and so a solution was needed to be found somehow. The job share arrangements mean the Space Agency benefits from both great minds, the alternative being that the industry would have missed out on some great talent. Now, due to the flexibility afforded to them both, they will continue leading delivery across the UK Space Agency, as well as deputising for CEO Paul Bate.

In a contrasting demonstration of workplace flexibility, Viasat offers a compressed 9-day fortnight, requiring employees to be in the office for just 4 days a month (typically equating to 1 day per week). This setup empowers teams to manage their office attendance locally, catering to individual preferences while fostering collaboration among team members.

Of course, certain industries and roles necessitate a greater on-site presence, limiting flexibility. For instance, employees may need to be physically present on a manufacturing floor or in a clean room. However, even in these sectors, there’s a noticeable shift towards offering flexibility where feasible. This strategic move ensures competitiveness against other organisations and industries vying for similar skill sets. It also underscores a commitment to adapting to the evolving needs and priorities of the workforce whenever possible.


Are Hybrid and Flexible Working Models here to stay?


It’s evident that the prevalence of flexible working arrangements is here to stay, shaping the future of work. New research (Mind the Flexible Working Gap: PayFit’s Flexible Working Survey), released on February 12th, 2024, by payroll and HR software company PayFit, underscores this sentiment. Surprisingly, nearly 50% of respondents indicated they would decline a substantial 15% pay increase if it meant sacrificing workplace flexibility, even amidst a challenging financial climate.

However, the study also reveals a concerning trend: 83% of those surveyed expressed the need for improvements to their current workplace’s flexible working policies. This data underscores the imperative for businesses to reassess their approach to talent retention. Failure to do so risks a potential exodus of talent to competitors offering more flexible working arrangements, particularly following the release of expanded guidelines on April 6, 2024.

In conclusion, the future of work hinges on flexibility and adaptability. Organisations that embrace hybrid and flexible working models foster a culture of empowerment, productivity, and employee well-being, positioning themselves for success in the evolving landscape of work.

Holt executive partner with organisations to support them with their hiring needs. We’re not just filling vacancies; we’re helping you strategically build or refine your talent acquisition function, ensuring it’s primed for both present and future needs, and anchored in strategic foresight and operational excellence. Get in touch with Julie Hyam and Dan Barrett on and if you’d like to know more or are interested in us supporting your business.


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