Written by Heidi Wadsworth | 5th May 2021

5th May 2021

Many of us were forced to adapt very quickly to working from home in 2020. It was a change that was unexpected, sudden and may have taken some getting used to. Now, another change is on the horizon as many businesses anticipate adopting a hybrid working model, with time split between home and the workplace, even if after the pandemic restrictions are completely lifted. But with this is going to bring many hybrid working challenges.

Hybrid working is in many ways a perfect solution – retaining the benefits of homeworking and those of being together, in person, in the workplace. And the good news is that this time round, there is time to plan to make sure hybrid working… works! Our hybrid working guide is designed to help you through this planning process.

What is hybrid working?

Hybrid working is used to describe employees who split their working hours between working remotely, either at home or location of their choice, or at the workplace, such as an office. This only applies to workers who can do their work from anywhere, providing they have the right equipment and tools.

However, for all its benefits, there can be hybrid working challenges. Here are a few you may face, and some advice on overcoming them with hybrid working best practices.

A flood of flexible and hybrid working requests

Remember that as lockdown lifts, your people may now have new challenges to manage including anxieties about returning to the workplace, and perhaps changed situations at home.

All of this can conspire to make the usual 9am to 5pm working day difficult to stick to for many people. This may mean that you will receive multiple flexible working requests from people in one team.

Hybrid working requests can be a challenge, but don’t panic if this happens – you may not be able to grant flexible working to everyone. The first thing you can do is consider the potential impact of granting all of these requests. If this is not possible then the next step is to adopt a fair system to decide which requests are granted and which are not.

If several employees request flexible working at the same time, you may have a good business reason not to allow all the requests: for example, if there would not be enough employees covering a busy period. In these circumstances, you might want to discuss the problem with the employees to see if a different arrangement might work better.

Try to find a compromise that can help keep good working relationships and support their work/life balance. A different arrangement could be finding a way of sharing whatever flexibility may be available. This could involve agreeing some sort of rotation whereby the employees take it in turns to work to their chosen pattern.

It may be possible to agree a compromise in which you agree changes that go some way towards meeting the requests made by a number of employees, even if no application is granted in full.

If you decide to reject the flexible working application, then you should still leave the door open for the employee to appeal your decision. Arrange a follow-up meeting with the employee to discuss their application further and double check that there is no other information that you need to take into account.

Handling resentment

One hybrid working challenge is avoiding conflict or bad feeling that arises around hybrid working go unaddressed.  If you notice some resentment, motivation and productivity could decline and relationships within the team could be damaged.

Working from an office again will involve commuting time, which can sometimes significantly extend an employee’s working day. They then must be at the office by a certain time and leave when the office is closing. Employees could feel resentful here as they have little or no flexibility. They do not have the option to do work in the evenings when the kids have gone to bed, or start earlier and leave for an afternoon appointment.

As a manager you may be experiencing some of these frustrations yourself. It’s important to be aware of the dangers of burnout, stress and anxiety of employees who may not be working flexibly.

The key, as with any workplace conflict, is for managers to have open and transparent communication with their team. Everyone needs to understand why flexible arrangements have been agreed – or in some cases why there is a strong business case they have been declined.

Keeping in contact with hybrid workers

For all team members, wherever they happen to be working, keep up the opportunities to talk individually and to ask how they are – and really mean it! It’s not always a comfortable conversation and can be easy to move on if they just say “fine”.

Make it clear when you need employees to be available – for example for a regular team catchup. If your people are hybrid working, it makes sense to keep these meetings online so everyone has the same experience wherever they are.

You could ask everyone to attend meetings via their own laptop, even when they’re in the office. This might sound strange, but it can help with team dynamics. If people in the office gather in the same space for a call, remote workers could feel less heard.

Also, in terms of hybrid work best practices, if your team are used to working together in the office and still can’t all get together, they will be missing out on the little day-to-day interactions previously taken for granted. Consider having a social channel on your work or instant messenger platform, or a WhatsApp group, where people can check up on each other, share personal updates and ask each other the quick questions they would normally direct to each other in the office.

Managers will need to ensure relationships are nurtured equally across workplace and remote employees. Communication is key here, to facilitate collaboration between both groups, assess what support is required, and most importantly, check in on how they are doing – personally and professionally.

For more tips on managing a hybrid workforce download our guide or consider our HR Toolkit. This toolkit offers vital information for employers whose people will be working on a hybrid model temporarily or permanently and includes 1 hour of support with a consultant.

If you have any questions, please get in touch with us at [email protected].