Hybrid working – what does it mean?
As working practices continue to evolve, hybrid working is the phrase being commonly used but what is it, how will it benefit your business and what’s the best way to implement it? The last year demanded more agility from UK businesses than at any other time in modern working history.
A wide range of research, including a YouGov survey and CIPD research, indicate that after the pandemic the majority of workers want to continue to work from home at least some of the time, presenting new opportunities for organisations to establish new ways of working.
According to data from the Office of National Statistics, prior to COVID-19 only around 5% of the workforce worked mainly from home. The pandemic, and government mandates for people to stay at home, increased this significantly.
While some employees want to work from home all the time after the pandemic, most would prefer a balance where they are in the office for some of the week and at home for the remainder. This has led to the use of a relatively new term: hybrid working.
The significant interest in more flexible forms of working, and hybrid working in particular, have created new employee expectations and desires. Organisations who do not support flexible forms of working may therefore risk increased employee turnover, reduced employee engagement and limitations on the ability to attract talent in the future. Hybrid working also provides other opportunities for organisations in terms of reducing estate and facilities costs, enabling employee wellbeing and supporting diversity and inclusion.
Employers are now having to consider what ‘hybrid’ means for them, how they might meet this new employee demand, and what will need to be in place in order for these new ways of working to be effective.
With the road map out of lockdown offering a potential return to the workplace for current homeworkers later in 2021, how, why and what should organisations think about implementing a hybrid approach?
- Ensuring equal access to training and development
- Using the office and workspaces effectively
- Supporting managers leading hybrid teams
- Ensuring leadership buy-in for new ways of working
- Supporting employees at the early stages of their career
- How to engage a blended workforce
Planning for the future
Prior to the pandemic, the progress of flexible working in the UK was perceived as out of touch with real life living. However, roles which previously may have been considered as unsuitable for flexible or homeworking have been successfully undertaken from home for a sustained period. Although hybrid working is different from remote working, we can draw on some of the lessons and experiences from working from home during the pandemic.
Key steps towards introducing hybrid working should include:
Policy and Procedure
- Agreeing an overall strategic position on hybrid working for the organisation and development of a policy and supporting guidance reflecting the strategy.
- Hybrid working is a form of flexible working. Therefore, employers may consider either adapting or updating an existing flexible working policy to include hybrid working as a specific category or introducing a specific hybrid working policy
- Organisations will need to give careful consideration to the contractual implications of hybrid working. Where employees make a formal request for hybrid working through a flexible working policy (and the request is accepted) this will amount to a formal change to terms and conditions of employment.
- Engaging managers throughout the organisation, providing an opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns, as well as the provision of training and development to support successful hybrid working.
- Development of a communication plan to share plans for future hybrid working with all employees
- When communication is not well managed it can result in poor information flow, knowledge gaps, barriers to effective team working and exclusion of team members who are not in the office.
- Communication within hybrid teams needs to be more intentional as casual or ad-hoc conversations may be reduced. Effective communication needs to be seen as the responsibility of everyone in the team.
Training and Development
- Although managers may have developed new skills in terms of managing a remote workforce, hybrid working brings unique challenges that are different from both predominantly remote and predominantly office-based working.
- Developing the skills to ensure effective communication, performance management, team and relationship building and collaboration in hybrid teams.
- Managers will also need information and guidance on ensuring diversity and inclusion, effective induction and employee engagement with a distributed team.
- Technology skills may also need further development
- How equipped are managers to manage performance based upon outcomes, objectives and results?
- Are current performance management systems and processes fit for purpose in a remote environment?
- Does current organisational culture reward or encourage presenteeism, and if so, how can this be addressed?
- Ensuring managers have 121 time with team members on a regular basis to discuss performance and update objectives.
This is just for starters’ – depending on the complexity of your organisation there may be many more things to consider but if, as seems likely, hybrid working is the future, it’s worth investing the time and training to get it right.
If you would like further support with considering hybrid working and how it impacts your workplace please get in touch