North West businesses need to offer hybrid working to attract new talent

Businesses in Manchester and the North West will need to offer hybrid working (a mixture of both office and homeworking) in the future if they are to retain the best talent, according to new research* from local connectivity provider TalkTalk.

87% of office workers in the North West said hybrid working would be an important factor when searching for a new job, as the post-pandemic working landscape begins to take shape.

As multiple lockdowns have signalled the end of the traditional five-day office week, the research gives an idea of why hybrid working is so important. 42% of office workers based in the North West have moved home or considered moving during the pandemic. Of these, nearly a quarter (23%) are happy to live more than hour away from their office, as daily commutes become a thing of the past. As a result of these lifestyle changes, a large proportion of employees now see the office predominately as space to collaborate on tasks (28%) or hold important business meetings (20%).

New network data from TalkTalk** shows that towns across the North West are becoming hybrid working hotspots. Towns such as Crewe (44%) and Preston (43%) are now seeing some of the largest increases of network data usage in the country, as workers spend more time split between the office and working from home.  

Top hybrid working hotspots in the North West:

  • Crewe (44% increase in internet usage over the pandemic)
  • Preston (43%)
  • Warrington (43%)
  • Stockport (42%)

Many employees have already invested significant amounts in their homeworking set ups, further explaining the rising popularity of splitting time between home and the office. The average spend on home office spaces in the North West over the course of the pandemic is £221 compared to £245 in London, while one in ten (10%) UK office workers have spent in excess of £500.

The most popular areas for investment have been faster, more reliable broadband (27%), a new laptop or PC (22%), a wireless mesh router (17%) and smart cameras (16%).

This shift towards a more flexible way of working may also impact the benefits that businesses offer their employees, as nearly half (46%) of office workers in the North West now expect their employers to contribute towards their broadband bills.

Such is the importance of fast, reliable internet to hybrid working that 80% of office workers said they’d considering paying more for their next home if it had access to full fibre, high speed broadband. Meanwhile, an overwhelming 94% said fast, reliable broadband was crucial for effective home working.

James Suzman, anthropologist and author of Work: A History of How We Spend Our Time, predicts that most businesses will never return to a five day office week: “The pandemic has forced employers to conduct a home working experiment they were never willing to take, with spectacularly positive results.

“Hybrid working is regenerating rural communities across the North West, as demonstrated by TalkTalk’s network data. People are looking out for neighbours, shopping locally and spending less time commuting, all of which has obvious environmental, mental health and societal benefits. This is only made possible by fast, reliable connectivity that allows people to work productively and efficiently no matter where they are based.”

Jonathan Kini, Managing Director of TalkTalk Consumer and Business, said: “Our research clearly demonstrates that the way we work has changed forever, with both employees and employers now seeing the benefits of hybrid working. The pandemic has allowed people to balance their professional and personal lives through increased time spent at home, and we are proud to have helped facilitate this shift, not just as an employer, but as a provider of fast, reliable connectivity.”

Explaining TalkTalk’s own approach to hybrid working, Kini continues: “At TalkTalk, we’ve long been advocates of hybrid working, what we refer to internally as ‘dynamic working’. This model gives colleagues the choice to work remotely on the days that require individual focus, while being able to come together in the office to collaborate. Personally, I live about 15 miles away from our office in Salford, so my commute can take up to 50 minutes depending on traffic. I’m usually in the office 2-3 days a week, which means I can continue to spend quality time with my family, sharing responsibilities and working around the dog!”

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