Introducing hybrid working: what you need to know.
Growing numbers of companies are recognising that offering hybrid working where operationally possible can be really advantageous. It can help with recruiting new employees as well as enabling existing staff to manage their working and personal responsibilities more successfully.
But it needs thinking through.
Identifying the potential benefits and drawbacks
There are certainly many potential advantages to hybrid working arrangements. As well as a better work-life balance, employees often find they can get on with their work in a more focused way thanks to having less distractions. It’s been linked to higher job satisfaction. It could reduce your costs, perhaps by needing to provide less office space. It reduces the need for lengthy commutes too – something that’s likely to be attractive right now with the rising cost of fuel bills affecting everyone.
This is all great – but it’s important to take a balanced view. Come winter, working from home will mean higher heating costs for employees. It can leave some people feeling isolated. It’s not as easy to build a company culture when part of the workforce are remote some of the time. And you might not be able to offer hybrid working to all your employees, leading to an ‘us’ and ‘them’ situation and perceptions that one group is being given more favourable treatment over another.
And while ‘hybrid working’ is used as a blanket term, it can actually take a few different forms. It might be that employees can choose which days they’re working from home each week. Some might have set days. Others might only be offered a day each week. Be mindful that variations between employees could also be seen as unfair – so be careful about how it’s presented.
What steps should you take if you’re planning on having hybrid working in your company?
- Create and update contracts, policies and procedures
Decide what hybrid working will look like in your organisation to help you be as consistent as possible in its application. Confirm what the process will be for requesting a hybrid arrangement and define any specific criteria for eligibility.
By allowing your employees to work in a hybrid way, it’s a change to their terms and conditions of employment. You will need to check contracts to see if any updates are required to reflect this, including clarifying whether by ‘remote’ you mean home or if you’re prepared for it to be any other locations too. You might also wish to specify core hours when all employees should be working even if there is some flexibility outside them.
Think too about any existing policies that will need updating. Your flexible working procedure is an obvious one, but it will need to be reflected in other policies too. How will it impact on absence and employee wellbeing arrangements for example – what will be the process for employees notifying you if they are unwell? What will be the effect on disciplinary and grievance situations? Also consider your approach to performance management, and fulfilling your health and safety responsibilities when employees are working remotely too, including completing all necessary risk assessments and providing equipment, such as chairs, to make sure their workspace is set up safely.
- Identify how to keep communication flowing
One of the big barriers to hybrid working in the past has been the concern about how to communicate effectively when people aren’t physically together.
Thanks to technology this is an issue that has been overcome to a large extent, but you will need to agree some ground rules about what will work best for your company or for particular departments within the company. That might include the messaging systems to be used, expectations for response times to messages, and agreeing core times when teams have to be available for each other.
This might create some new training requirements of course. It’s important that employees are helped to get to grips with any form of technology that might be required to be used as part of their new working arrangements.
And while we’re on the subject of training, remember that no-one must be disadvantaged from a training and development perspective, or career perspective, by the fact they’re hybrid workers. Make sure that all opportunities are available to all employees equally, irrespective of their location.
- Protect data and IT equipment
At the start of the pandemic, a lot of people suddenly had to start using their personal IT equipment to access work systems. And this created all kinds of problems, from concerns over breaches of GDPR to issues over the lack of effective data security protection on PCs.
So put a robust system in place to protect your company, its information, its equipment and the employees themselves from these types of risks. Make sure employees appreciate the need to keep sensitive data every bit as secure as when they’re physically in the workplace.
Do you need advice about hybrid working in your company?
You’ll find more details and practical guidance about hybrid working in this downloadable booklet from the CIPD. And if you’d like some help making sure you have a comprehensive approach to getting the best out of hybrid working then please do get in contact with us for some friendly, professional HR advice.