A social enterprise is launching a series of business support programmes to help Scottish organisations make the transition to hybrid working as lockdown restrictions continue to ease.

The move by Flexibility Works comes as employers across the country prepare to take the first cautious steps towards bringing staff back to the workplace. Among them are stockbroking and portfolio management group Brewin Dolphin, which is bringing back a limited number of staff in Glasgow on a “needs-based” basis from May 17.

The support on offer ranges from a free talk, including a question-and-answer session, through to more in-depth workshops and up to a full hybrid working programme. The latter is a tailored course including a full audit, meetings with the leadership team, employee engagement, and practical support.

According to Flexibility Works – which interviewed more than 200 Scottish employers and 1,000 workers for its Flex for Life report released in March – 78 per cent of employers believe Covid has permanently changed how, when and where we work. This echoes findings from a wide array of other surveys, including one from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in which 63% of employers said they planned to introduce or expand the use of hybrid working.

READ MORE: Balancing act on blended working

Co-founded by Lisa Gallagher and Nikki Slowey, Flexibility Works helps large and small organisations develop more flexible working environments. Ms Slowey said that after the collective experience of working differently during the pandemic, it’s clear that a more blended way of working is “here to stay”.

“A few employers are reportedly demanding everyone returns to the office, or they are selling off offices for good,” she said. “But most employers and employees are looking at something much less extreme – a hybrid of home and office.

“This is about common sense, relatively small changes that help people manage their work and home lives better, and ensure businesses benefit from increased staff engagement, loyalty and productivity.

“We want to help show businesses that they don’t need to start a revolution in moving to a hybrid way of working, and ensure that line managers in particular feel confident in managing their people in a different way.”

READ MORE: Working from home 'beneficial'

Prior to lockdown, 95% of Brewin Dolphin’s 2,150 staff across the UK, Jersey and Ireland were office-based. When lockdown came, all but two of its 30 offices were closed.

Divisional director Stephen Martin said up to 11 of the 40 staff in the Glasgow office will initially come back on May 17. Decisions on which employees will be the first to return will be based on the types of work they do, along with their own personal needs and preferences.

Some, for example, may not have an appropriate workspace at home, or may be suffering from isolation. Those who spend a lot of time dealing with clients will also be among the first to come back.

While the assumption remains that the primary place of work is the office, Mr Martin emphasised that at this early stage, no one will be forced to return if they are not willing to do so.

READ MORE: Small minority of Scots firms expect a full return to the office

“We will gradually build up over the summer,” he said. “Ultimately we still need collaboration, we still need teamwork, so people will be in maybe two, three or four days a week.

“It is difficult to say exactly right now – it is quite hard to be definitive, because much will depend on people’s circumstances. We are working through all of that at the moment.”

A recent survey by Grant Thornton found that less than one out of 10 mid-sized businesses in Scotland – defined as those with an annual turnover of between £50 million and £500m – believe a full-time return to the office would be best for their staff.

A hybrid split between the home and office was cited as the best model by 74%. Of those, 14% expect workers will spend most of their time in the office, while 38% said it would be more efficient for employees to work from home most of the time. Sixty per cent said staff expect the flexible working options established during the past year to continue.