One of Scotland’s leading whisky brands has launched an initiative to help new recruits and existing staff perform their best as hybrid working becomes a permanent feature of its operations.

The move by the Glenmorangie Company comes as new research from social enterprise Flexibility Works shows there is little need for employers to “guilt trip” staff back into the office, with the majority across all age groups keen to return to their place of work at least part of the time. The group adds that while blended working presents challenges for training new and younger hires, programmes such as that at Glenmorangie can help overcome these hurdles.

The owner of the Glenmorangie and Ardbeg premium malt brands is offering existing non-management staff the opportunity to take on younger and newer workers, allowing them to develop their management skills while also supporting new recruits settling into their roles while working from home. This has alleviated pressure on existing line managers who often already have multiple people reporting directly to them.

The company is also running a “buddy scheme” in a bid to boost morale and mental wellbeing. Every week, employees across the business are partnered with a colleague for two 15-minute calls to discuss non-work topics, with the pairings changing each week to build connections between those who might not normally cross paths.

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“The pandemic has been a challenging time to join a company,” human resources director Maria Rooney said. “Asking questions feels so much more natural when you are sitting next to someone.

“To help new employees – often in their first job – to feel more confident, we’ve been pairing them with existing colleagues. As line managers, they offer support and camaraderie, while developing their own management skills.”

Nikki Slowey, co-founder and director of Flexibility Works, said employers should ignore “inflammatory headlines” pitting different generations of workers against each other, and instead listen to what their staff have to say. Most, she added, are very practical when it comes to understanding team dynamics and business requirements.

Her observations come as the advice in Scotland continues running counter to that of the UK Government, which gave the green light for workers in England to return to their offices when the last of lockdown restrictions were lifted in July. In Scotland the advice remains to work from home “where possible”.

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The UK Government’s push for a return to “normal” has been bolstered by comments from various ministers such as Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who has said that older workers planning to stay permanently at home are risking the development of younger colleagues. He has also said that younger employees will get on better in their careers if they are physically alongside their co-workers.

However, the findings by Flexibility Works suggest such cajoling isn’t entirely necessary, at least for those employers willing to offer hybrid working options.

In Scotland, 78 per cent of working adults who weren’t furloughed say they want to go back to their place of employment at least some of the time. Approximately half of all age groups said they missed social interaction with colleagues during lockdown, suggesting that the desire for full-time remote working is limited.

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Split by age, 73% of millennials between 18 and 34 years old wanted to be at their place of work at least part of the time, rising to 86% of over-55s.

“Employers don’t need to guilt trip employees back to the office,” Ms Slowey said. “While all age groups generally want more flexibility at work, the majority want to be in the office at least some of the time.

“There are certainly new challenges for employers around on-boarding and training new and younger workers if people work remotely more often, but these aren’t insurmountable. Organising team time in the office, offering development opportunities to non-management staff, or using remote working as an opportunity for less experienced staff to join senior meetings they wouldn’t normally attend if it was in a physical boardroom are just some of the relatively straightforward ways we can support and train young and new workers.”