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.
Hybrid working can have huge advantages in terms of recruitment and retention, productivity and engagement, but implementing it does involve a number of practical considerations if you want to get it right.
Fixed or flexible?
Hybrid working 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. It’s important to decide upfront whether you want a bit more structure, or the complete flexibility of choice.
If you have some structure, such as fixed days in the office, you can potentially ensure that things like team meetings can happen with everyone present in person. It can feel a bit pointless coming into the office if you are having meetings via Zoom or Teams with people at home. Structure to the week can help avoid that, and maximise the benefits of attending the office.
Everyone or a select few?
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.
Of course it may be that you have certain roles or teams who simply cannot perform their work from home, in which case hybrid working won’t work for them, whilst others can easily do it effectively. Some 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 very rigid approach may risk negating some of the key employee engagement benefits. Offering the option of hybrid working to as many of your workforce as possible is ideal, an although balancing different individual requests and needs can be difficult, accommodating them where you can is sensible.
Data protection risks
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 Wi-Fi) in public places can represent a risk of a data breach or loss. “Work from anywhere” sounds appealing but it’s not necessarily a sensible approach, at least not without putting in place clear guidance.
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.