There has been much public discussion about increased remote or homeworking, and other flexible working options, and an arrangement many organisations are utilising in a post-pandemic world is hybrid working. Hybrid working involves employees splitting their time, working remotely some of the time, and attending the workplace as well.
It can be either fixed days, with, say three days a week at home and the rest in the office, or much more flexible, with the employee choosing where they work, depending on their needs and circumstances, and the requirement of their role. Some organisations have chosen to implement hybrid working across the board, as an entire workforce, whilst others use a more targeted approach, with either individual roles or certain teams operating as hybrid whilst others remain in the workplace.
The advantages of hybrid working are that both the business and employees can benefit from the publicised advantages of flexibility and homeworking – productivity, recruitment and retention, wellbeing, reduced absence and higher engagement – whilst also reducing the impact of the negatives associated with employees working purely remotely, such as reduced opportunity for team collaboration, challenges with supervision, and isolation.
Employees can benefit from reduced travel costs and less time spent commuting, whilst employers can retain a good connection with staff and ensure team working and innovation remains good.
Things to consider
Although hybrid working can in itself address some of the difficulties with remote working, there are still things to bear in mind. There will be an increased data protection risk involved in having employees working remotely that will need addressing, with software, equipment and/or clear procedures. You may choose to restrict where employees can work, for security reasons, as working (and accessing wifi) in public places can represent a risk of a data breach or loss.
You will need to think about whether you’re implementing hybrid working for everyone, or just on an individual basis, bearing in mind that not all roles may be suitable, and many employees may not be able to work from home, or may not want to. Although there are administrative advantages to implementing the same arrangement for everyone, your employees will have different needs, circumstances and preferences, and a rigid approach may risk negating some of the key employee engagement benefits.
There are contractual considerations – a change to hybrid working may involve a contract change, with a contract variation letter worded to reflect the degree of flexibility you have agreed with the employee. Hours of work may change and you will also need clarity on whether employees can claim expenses for journeys to the workplace.
You can avoid a contract change with a discretionary hybrid working policy, whereby employees have the flexibility to agree with their managers when they’ll be in the office and when they’ll be at home, without a formal contractual change. This can work well in a small business, although care should be taken that something discretionary doesn’t become contractual through custom and practice if, for example, an employee drifts into always working at home Mondays and Tuesdays, and does so consistently for a significant period.
If well-managed, hybrid working can be an excellent way of improving productivity, recruitment and retention, whilst retaining good team collaboration and a workplace presence. If you’d like some advice on implementing hybrid working in your small business, do get in touch.