Hybrid working – would it work for you?

News, Planning,

Hybrid working is a phrase that many of us may not have come across before Coronavirus. Now it’s a fixture in our post-Covid vocabulary, and is an extremely popular way of working. Recent reports put a figure as high as 85% for the number of people who would like to split their working hours between home and an office.

There is a direct contradiction between this figure and the 25% of businesses who have told the Office of National Statistics (ONS) that they intend to make a permanent shift to a blended way of working. A third of businesses who responded said they were unsure whether to do so.

We’ve been discussing the subject with several clients lately, with the following, we think, being the primary areas to consider:

What are the key concerns?

Why would you consider a move to hybrid working?

This could revolve around staff retention, cost reduction, staff wellbeing, brand reputation or because its a development of a previous process that worked well.

Is it practical?

Explore the reality of staff working effectively away from the office environment. Whilst it perhaps had to work during lockdowns, can employees’ full job description be carried out without being in the office full time? Do staff have the right ergonomic work stations at home? Can the business provide those to ensure safety and efficiency? Can you review productivity data to see how home working may have affected things? Will you be left with an empty building for which you’ve committed to pay rent for a long period of time?

Performance measurement may need to change.

If you business measures performance on outputs or outcomes, it may be easier to monitor staff performance. On the other hand, if your business is built on time being spent on key areas of work, you may need to work out how to accurately oversee that time.

Where do the business leaders stand on the subject?

Department heads or your management team need to be wholly on board with any decision, and lead from the front. If they aren’t onside, there will be a fracture in the culture, and you may experience problems that otherwise wouldn’t have arisen.

What do staff want?

At this stage, your team may well have been working from home for well over 18 months. They know what has worked for them, what could be changed, and whether they really want to get back to the office or not. Some will be desperate to do so, while others may well dig in their heels and refuse. Gaining an understanding of their motivations may help find some common ground and find a workable solution.

What are your customers’ expectations?

Does you industry generally have face to face meetings? Are your customers likely to expect to be able to call in to see someone? How can you manage that and still find  away to have hybrid working?

How will company culture be affected?

Protecting a positive company culture is key to having a team that works well together. Finding ways to reinforce that connection and culture if you are not going to regularly see each other may help to reinforce the team dynamic. Away days, enhanced technology or even more frequent online team meetings can help protect your culture.

What about the Practicalities?

There will be all sorts of implications, some of which may be particular to your industry or your business itself. Here’s a starter list for you:

  1. You will need to think about the HR implications, so around consultation and discrimination. Also, to formalise arrangements for the recovery of equipment in the event of someone leaving your employment, or to conduct risk assessments or electrical safety tests.
  2. You’ll need to think about the impact on your office space, rental agreements and even things like providing desks, chairs and equipment to your team, and how the ownership of that may change if they leave.
  3. Your IT manager, either internal or outsourced, will need to ensure that your data is secure and that all of your systems can function fully on a remote basis.
  4. Health and Safety is still just as relevant while working at home as working in the office. Risks need to be identified and reduced to an acceptable level.
  5. If an employee is contracted to work at home, travel to the office becomes work related, and their car insurance will technically need to include business use. This travel may also become chargeable for expenses so a clear policy will be needed and the costs factored into budgets, particularly if you are recruiting remote workers who work a long distance from your office location, as accommodation may be required as well.

Our recommendation would be to discuss your business’s situation and the wider implications with your HR advisor. We’re not qualified to advise you on this one, but are obviously very happy to act as a sounding board if you’d like one! Similarly, if you need to speak to a pragmatic and realistic HR advisor, please ask us for an introduction; there is a lot of variation between the quality of advice you may receive. You can get in touch either by emailing or giving us a call on 01768 330 400.

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