As workplaces re-open, recent surveys strongly suggest many organisations will have a mix of home and workplace-based employees for months to come, if not indefinitely.
While mass homeworking was forced upon employers at very short notice in 2020, we have time to plan this latest change more carefully as we step along the road to full re-opening – and it’s important to get it right.
This guide is designed to walk you through that process.
Hybrid working can bring huge benefits in terms of productivity, flexibility and employee wellbeing – but it’s not the best option for everyone.
Think carefully about what your organisation has learned during the pandemic and how your people feel about it. What have been the benefits of working at home and the disadvantages of not being together in the workplace?
If hybrid working does appeal, think about what would be the best blend – more home working or more time in the office? Does “hybrid” for your organisation mean some people mostly at home and some mainly in the office? Or do most people split their time between the two? Are some roles better suited to one or the other?
Thinking this through in detail will help you form a plan.
Once you’ve worked out what could work for your business and its people, make sure you communicate your plans to employees.
You should have a clear policy outlining the working arrangements that will apply, including working hours and how often you expect them to be in the workplace.
Do this well in advance of any change so employees have a chance to feed back their views. Make it clear you are there to listen to any concerns – and make adjustments if necessary.
A comprehensive employment contract is essential – not just for legal compliance but also to ensure employer and employee alike understand what is required of them. If “going hybrid” means significantly changing working practices, or your people have contracts that specify working hours or locations, then your employee contracts may need updating.
Hybrid working (and indeed other forms of flexible working) sometimes can be undertaken on an informal basis without a contractual change. You should make sure that employees and managers understand the differences and the implications of both. Seek HR advice now to avoid problems later.
Read more about contracts here.
After so long working at home, you may find some of your people resist returning to the workplace at all. Tread carefully but act decisively and deal with each on a case-by-case basis.
It’s important to let your team know that you understand the pressures they are under and that you are able to support them by being flexible. Above all, ensure they understand that you’re more interested in results than where and when the work takes place.
If a refusal to work leads you to consider taking disciplinary actions, including dismissal, then seek HR advice before embarking on any process.
For the foreseeable future, premises need to be Covid-secure and it is the responsibility of employers to make sure they are safe.
This may mean making changes to working spaces and shift patterns to support social distancing. Make sure there are clear protocols for elements like working patterns, hot-desking and cleaning down, one-way systems, marked entrances and exits, and communal areas.
Likewise, you have a legal responsibility to ensure the health and safety of people working at home. In both cases, full risk assessments should be carried out.
Problems with IT can be a major source of frustration and dissatisfaction – so engage with your IT teams and make sure the model is seamless before you start.
If people took equipment such as desktop computers at home with them at the start of the pandemic, you may need to think about the practicalities of them being at home for part of the week and in the office at other times. Do you need to invest in new equipment?
As well as technology, consider what other equipment will encourage good health and safety practice when remote working, including office chairs, desks, and wrist supports.
As a result of the pandemic many employees have had to get up to speed with new technologies such as online meetings and new communication tools. However, your systems may need to adapt to allow for some teams to be in the workplace together while others are on their own at home.
If you make any change to protocols, systems and ways of meeting, you should make sure employees are well-informed and comfortable with them – training may be required.
Also think about staff who may have been furloughed while working practices have changed – again, make sure they are up to speed.
If hybrid working means some people mainly work from home while others go into the workplace more frequently, don’t let resentment creep in. It’s important everyone knows that work is spread fairly and transparently to avoid a “them and us” mentality developing.
Make sure your team members understand and agree when they should be available for team catch-ups and client contact – and how. And use technology, especially collaborative tools such as Microsoft Teams and Slack, to ensure everyone is in touch and on the same side, wherever they are.
Good communication is at the heart of good HR and staying in touch can be more challenging when working in a hybrid system. Employers and managers have a role to play in making sure that everyone feels included, whether they are in the office or working remotely.
Consider regularly taking meetings online by default to ensure that each attendee has a similar experience.
Online catchups, Zoom drinks, and team quizzes may feel “very 2020” but they could still have a place in helping teams to bond when they can’t all be together at the same time.
Wellbeing is for life – not just the pandemic! Remember that hybrid working may bring unique challenges around work-life balance and managing the boundaries between work and home.
Staff in the office may be more likely to do their set hours leave at the end of the day, while home workers may find it difficult to switch off.
Help managers to understand the potential wellbeing implications of hybrid working and equip them to have appropriate wellbeing conversations – our webinar is a good place to start.
Ensure managers are aware of potential signs and symptoms of poor wellbeing or mental health, as these may be harder to spot if people are not in the same place each day.
Our FREE Wellness Action Plan Guide will help you keep a focus on employee wellbeing.
Remember that hybrid working is new for many businesses in 2021, just as remote working was in 2020. Even if you are well-prepared, it can difficult to get it right straight away – employers, line managers and employees will all be learning as they go.
Keep in touch with people at all levels, discuss what works and what doesn’t, and tweak if necessary. Remember that it is far better to act on feedback and make some changes or even U-turns than it is to doggedly stick with a model that isn’t working.
If you would like support to implement a hybrid working model, our experienced team can help. Just get in touch using the form below.
This toolkit offers vital information for employers whose people will be working on a hybrid model temporarily or permanently.
Contact our HR Consultants to chat about how we can support you.