With Scotland recording the biggest increase in home working of all the UK regions during the first quarter of this year, one recruitment expert is warning of a growing divide between the “haves” and “have-nots” of hybrid employment.

Ivor Campbell of Stirlingshire-based Sneddon Campbell said home working is exacerbating inequalities with older and more senior staff benefitting at the expense of younger junior counterparts. Like share options, company cars and private health insurance, hybrid arrangements are becoming a “perk” for higher-ranking staff while presenteeism continues to prevail in the lower echelons.

“What we are seeing is a divide in the way remote and in-office work is offered to different classes of employee,” said Mr Campbell, whose company specialises in recruitment for the medical technology industry.

“Almost all of the positions we fill for senior executives and expert scientists and engineers now have one thing in common – the option to work remotely.

“We are specifically asking applicants if they can work remotely and if so, when. We wouldn’t have done that two years ago. It wouldn’t have occurred to us because it wasn’t an issue. Now we are more likely to ask someone if they can work remotely than if they have a driving licence.”

Ivor Campbell says hybrid weighs in favour of senior staff at the expense of younger counterpartsIvor Campbell

However, he said bosses are less inclined to let younger staff work from home because of concerns about their productivity and development.

“Senior executives in their fifties and sixties, who have spent their careers in offices, want to be able to manage staff they can see in person,” Mr Campbell said. “Some want to have a ‘trading floor’ with a bit of a buzz, with ideas being shared, and they don’t feel you can do that on Zoom.”

Latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that Scotland saw the biggest increase in home working of all the UK regions between January and March compared to pre-pandemic levels. The additional 500,000 people working from home equated to a rise of more than 200 per cent.

Commenting on those figures last month, accountancy group PwC said its own research showed that two-thirds of Scottish employees who are able to work remotely are currently doing so “all or most of” the time.

“But not all employees are able to carry out hybrid or home working, including 46% of those we surveyed as part of our research,” regional market leader Jason Morris said.

READ MORE: Working from home — Most workers want to keep going

“Industries like hospitality, travel, care and retail require people in restaurants, on planes, and so on. Our findings show these types of employees report less satisfaction with their jobs than those in hybrid or fully remote environments.”

Mr Campbell said data from the ONS shows that the ability to work from home is directly related to how much an individual earns, with those on lower incomes up to five times less likely to be able to work remotely. Between April 27 and May 8 just 6% of lower-income households across the UK reported to be working from home, compared to 12% of middle-wage earners and 23% of those on £40,000 or more.

“The predicted mass return to office working has failed to materialise, with significant numbers continuing to work from home, but the headline figures mask a divide,” he said.

“Our findings confirm that you are more likely to be offered the opportunity to work from home if you’re in a senior position in a science or technology-related company with the appropriate infrastructure. There, you are more likely to be able to convince your boss that you should be working remotely.”

Mr Campbell further warned of a potential rise in disaffection in those companies where there is still a presumption of presenteeism among junior staff: “As pay is squeezed by inflation, particularly on transport and fuel, the burden of taking 10 hours of your life every week to travel on an expensive train, bus or car so that you can rock up to your employer’s office only to have Zoom meetings with them from their kitchens is less and less palatable.”