New report assesses impact of hybrid working on social housing sector

Research undertaken by Service Insights Ltd has explored the impact of hybrid working in the social housing sector in the wake of Covid-19.
A woman working from a laptop computer at home.

The Covid 19 pandemic has now been with us for over two years since it was first identified in Wuhan in late 2019. With new variants such as Omicron emerging, many social housing providers have had to revert to hybrid working models of service delivery.

Research undertaken by Service Insights Ltd has explored the impact of hybrid working in the social housing sector to find out how housing associations are adapting and changing their organisational culture as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With the participation of five housing associations of varying sizes (between 1,500 properties to 35,000 properties), feedback was gained from 614 employees and 1,335 free text comments.

12 key findings were identified, of which the top 5 are seen as follows:

  1. The future of work in social housing is hybrid working.
  2. Social housing organisations and individuals have adapted well to new ways of working.
  3. Productivity has increased, but there is a longer-term risk of burnout.
  4. The Covid-19 pandemic is still negatively affecting service quality.
  5. Equality in who gets to choose their preferred working style and equal opportunities for career progression could be improved.

Other key findings included themes of recognition and reward for hybrid working staff; the need for various aspects of work to keep pace with change (such as policies / terms and conditions and technology); whilst other findings included themes of employee collaboration; effective decision making; greater awareness of digital footprints, and finally awareness of staff at risk of fuel poverty when working from home.

Dr Simon Williams, managing director of Service Insights Ltd said: “This research provides new insights into the impact of current hybrid working practices and how housing associations are adapting their organisational culture. It’s fascinating to see organisational change occurring in ways that simply wouldn’t have been contemplated at scale in the recent past, such as housing associations selling off some or all of their office space. Aligned with other research around the world, the long-term future of work for many in social housing is hybrid working, predominantly working from home with some days per week in the office. Whilst there are positive benefits to be gained from this change, new risks also emerge.”
Williams added: “One of the most important findings from the research was how the Covid-19 pandemic can be seen to still negatively affect service quality. With the ongoing risk of the Omicron variant and newly emerging variants, adapting services to maintain consistent levels of service quality is a real challenge.”

Gavin Fisk, director of communities and customer service at Leeds & Yorkshire Housing Association said, “The research has enabled us to independently assess how well we’ve adapted during the pandemic, where we’ve done well and where we can strengthen our culture in future. It’s given us confidence to know that colleagues feel LYHA has in many ways successfully transitioned at a pace to a hybrid model. Whilst colleagues have told us that hybrid working fits with their everyday life, we’ll keep focussing upon improving issues relating to work-life balance to ensure we build a sustainable model for the longer-term.”

Tony Price, head of programme, innovation, commercial management and sales at Trent and Dove Housing said, “Trent and Dove are very pleased to have participated in this important study. Clearly Covid has been a great challenge to all organisations and we’ve worked hard to adapt our working styles and services to reflect this. The research really helped us with planning and shaping services and how we deliver these for customers going forward. As with all organisations, we’ll continue to work with our customers and stakeholders to adapt to whatever challenges emerge in the future.”

A more in-depth look at the findings of this latest study will appear in February’s edition of Housing Executive. The Impact of Hybrid Working report, as well as previous research on home working by Service Insights Ltd can be downloaded here.

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