As we progress through the Government’s roadmap to ease current restrictions many employees and organisations are emerging from long-term homeworking arrangements which were quickly established some 15 months ago. Through this extensive period of homeworking, IT systems and new ways of working have been established paving the way to a potential modern version of work, including hybrid working.
Hybrid working can help increase productivity and engagement as employees benefit from potential improvements in their work–life balance and reduced commuting time. Your organisation may also benefit from savings on overhead costs through managing office attendance, for example through hot-desking, thereby needing less office space and reducing spend on rent and utilities.
Offering hybrid working could enhance your ability to recruit quality talent who may not have been available to your organisation if the work was limited to a single geographical location. Studies show that people are willing to travel further for work if the frequency of travel is less.
What do we mean by hybrid working?
Hybrid working is a flexible working arrangement where employees work their contracted hours partly from your office and the remainder from their home. This allows your employees to benefit from the advantages of homeworking whilst you retain the interdepartmental, interdependent relationships that naturally flow from real-life interaction in the office or workplace.
It essentially provides a favourable position between full office and home working, where either option may not provide an optimum working environment for employees to thrive in all the time. ACAS conducted research in 2013, and found that homeworking started to lose optimum benefits after 20 hours per week in the home office. Productivity can stall or even drop when people who do not want to work from home all the time are forced to work from home, and vice versa for employees who long to work from home but are expected to work in the office.
How could you introduce and manage hybrid working?
Set the right culture
Not all roles within your organisation may be suited to hybrid working, this should be made clear to employees and you should make it clear that not everyone may want to work from home.
Culture can often affect the identity of your organisation, so you want to ensure that this remains healthy even when people work remotely from each other. Part of the culture setting is to ensure the continuation of relationships and collaboration amongst colleagues. Where possible try and introduce a regular day where all employee attend the workplace, this time could be used for any collective training or meeting/update session with all employees.
In the event that some people are in the office and others at home for a team meeting, the CIPD recommends that all participants attend the meeting via video conference. This is to ensure that all meeting attendees have an equal chance in speaking and contributing to the meeting.
Try to include some social times in meetings where you provide the opportunity to talk about anything other than work. Considering the social cohesion of the team and ensuring everyone’s meeting experience is the same aids the culture setting in your organisation.
IT and connectivity
After 15 months of homeworking, most organisations have made adaptions to their IT systems to facilitate homeworking successfully. However, when employees work remote from each other, it is helpful to use collaborative tools, some of which are readily available, and to ensure your employees have access to the right software.
Connection and communication issues are often the most common issues homeworkers’ face, which can lead to stress and de-motivation among employees.
Managing remote teams can be a challenging task for even the most experienced managers, your managers should have sufficient training and support to enable them to manage this effectively.
What is the optimum homeworking solution?
This will depend on your organisation, the services you offer and your workforce. For some organisations hybrid working may not be ideal, for others it may be great way forward.
Whatever you plan to introduce, it is advisable to speak to your employees first and allow them to informally express their opinions, their likes and dislikes on homeworking and learn from that. Make sure that your managers are on board before finalising any plans for the future; get their buy-in and allow them to make comments throughout the planning and implementation stages. They need to be fully aware and supportive of any plans, as employees will often use their manager as their first port of call.
What else do we need to consider?
Hybrid working is a form of flexible working; as such you should ensure that any current flexible working policy is up to date, or you may want to consider introducing a specific hybrid working policy that will guide managers and employees through the rights and duties which come with homeworking.
Employees who have been employed for 26 weeks or more have a statutory right to request flexible working, which could include the request to hybrid working. If requests are received you should ensure you follow your flexible working request policy or, in the absence of such a policy, follow the ACAS code of practice concerning flexible working requests.
Where employees make a formal request for hybrid working through a flexible working policy or a hybrid working policy any agreed change would result in a permanent change to their contract of employment, unless agreed as a trial period.
We have signposted below to some additional guidance on homeworking which may be helpful for your managers and employees:
Still have queries?
We are happy to talk to you the approach your organisation could take and / or provide you with details and costs of our Hybrid Working Policy. Please do ring us on 01562 840060 or email [email protected] for further information and support.
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