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How to plan for hybrid working

After the first national lockdown lifted in 2020, the BBC reported on research findings that nine in 10 employees would like to continue working from home if they were able to do so.  A Rightmove study from around the same time also found that enquiries from city dwellers for rural properties were up 126%, potentially indicating an increased desire for working from home, as well as more outside space.

Yet whilst many people feel working from home is good for their mental health, around a third worry that it has a detrimental impact, with 67% of people saying they felt less connected to their colleagues.  Many people also do not have appropriate space to work at home.

Given these mixed experiences, it is therefore not surprising that hybrid working, involving a mixture of time working from home and in the office, is increasingly being spoken about as a potential new normal.  However, employers considering implementing hybrid working have a number of things to consider for this to be a success.  In this blog we explore some of the key themes.

Where is everybody?

Hybrid working can make it a little harder to know where everybody is, which if you want to call an urgent meeting or just have a quick chat with somebody can present a challenge.  As such, it is important to implement a system which easily allows you to identify who is in the office, who is working from home, and who is elsewhere (e.g. customer visit or annual leave) each day. 

This is also important for monitoring annual leave and sickness absence.  What is more, in (fortunately) rare circumstances employers can also be the one to identify that a person is missing, and have a duty of care towards the wellbeing of their employees in such circumstances.

Inclusive Communication

Before Covid-19 led to working from home becoming more widespread, a common concern raised by people working from home was that they sometimes felt out of the loop.  With a mix of employees working from home, planning communications effectively will be important to ensure everybody is included.  This may involve measures such as setting up meetings so that participants can join virtually or in person, ensuring the team are aware of dates for key meetings and announcements in advance to plan attendance if required, and recapping key information with an email, video or phone call to colleagues who miss out on an impromptu-but-important discussion where key decisions are made.

Clear Expectations

Employers managing employees who work from home occasionally should be clear about their expectations, e.g.

  • Do you expect employees to attend the office on specific days or for certain events?
  • Do you expect employees to be available for calls/video calls between certain times, or can they get their work done when they see fit?
  • Do you want the employee to check in with you or update you on their progress, and is there a set frequency for this (e.g. every Friday)?
  • Do you expect them to be logged into certain systems at certain times?
Contracts & Policies

Employers should review their existing working from home policy if they have one, or introduce a hybrid/working from home policy if not, to ensure it is fit for purpose going forward.  Amongst the other issues set out in this blog, a policy of this nature should be clear on when employees are authorised to work from home; is it that they can make their own judgement based on their diary commitments, or do they need advance authorisation from a line manager?

You should also ensure that employment contracts are clear on where an employee’s registered place of work is.  In many cases, this will remain the office, and occasional working from home will be a discretionary measure offered by the employer. This is important for addressing questions around time and costs for commuting.

It is also beneficial for an employer to have a flexible working policy.  Some employees may want to apply for a form of flexible working not covered under the hybrid working policy (e.g. reduced hours, or a permanent change to their place of work), and this will set out how such requests are handled (you can read more about this here).

And another thing…

Hybrid working isn’t just an HR issue!  Other departments and functions are likely to need to be involved in planning a successful hybrid working approach.  These may include:

  • IT, to ensure that employees have the necessary technology, and also that appropriate IT security measures are in place;
  • Health and safety, as whilst temporary arrangements such as working in bed may have been ok when necessitated by lockdown, DSE assessments may be appropriate for ongoing arrangements;
  • Your Data Protection Officer or whoever heads up data protection issues, to ensure appropriate data management (both at home and on journeys to/from the workplace).

For help in planning for hybrid working for your employees, ViewHR are here to help – please contact us for an initial discussion.