By Charlotte Dean, founder/director of P3 People Management.
Since the first lockdown occurred in 2020, our vocabulary has definitely increased. We’re using words now that we’d never heard of before or never thought of using. Using the word ‘hybrid’, when it comes to the way we work, is just one of them.
The word hybrid refers to something that is a mixture of things. A hybrid car for example runs on both fuel and electric power. Hybrid working is a mixture of remote working and working in a physical workplace.
So, just like the car, how do you achieve great performance. And are there likely to be any bumps in the road? Let’s take a look and explore the world of hybrid working.
Before the coronavirus crisis, it was a given that the majority of workers went to work in a workplace. Working from home was seen as a bit of a treat, something we requested when this scenario was more convenient, to suit the times when our brand-new washing machine was due to arrive. And should anyone request to work from home on a Friday afternoon, suspicions were raised!
Thankfully, this way of thinking is long gone, and we have seen first-hand the benefits that agile and remote working can bring. But we also know that it’s not for everyone. Hybrid working gives an increased level of flexibility, it can be adapted to suit the way teams and individuals want to work and creates greater working experiences.
What employees want
Before we begin looking at how to implement hybrid working, let’s look at why this change to the way we work is so important.
YouGov carried out a survey where they asked British employees about their preferred way of working. Here are the headlines:
- Prior to the pandemic, 68% of employees never worked from home. Of the 32% that had, 13% worked from home all the time, while 19% worked some days at home and some days in the workplace.
- 57% of employees stated that they wanted to be able to work from home after all restrictions are lifted. 18% said they wanted to work from home all of the time and 39% said that they wanted a mix of working at home and at the workplace.
These statistics give a lot of food for thought and provide an opportunity for employers to establish new processes.
Short term planning
There’s so much uncertainty about right now, making long term planning difficult. Let’s focus on what you can do in 2021, this will create a firm foundation for any future plans.
With uncertainty surrounding the social distancing rules it makes good business sense to implement a hybrid approach. This can be temporary for now and a decision whether to make it a permanent option can be made at a later date.
To make sure this implementation is successful, you should:
- Identify the roles that can work remotely and those that can’t. Unfortunately, not every role is suitable for hybrid working.
- Establish which of the suitable roles should be prioritised for a return to the workplace.
- Work out a safe capacity for the workplace.
- Communicate your plans with your employees and ask them to raise any concerns or aspirations with their manager.
- Find a plan that works for the business and matches your employees’ preferences.
Don’t overwhelm yourself trying to get it right first time. This way of working is new, and it may take some time to perfect it. Employees will want different shift patterns; some will want to work at home more while others will want to work in the workplace more.
Where will employees sit when they work in the workplace? Will they sit in their teams? Is it better to introduce a ‘hot desk’ system? Are you going to insist on set days? Will an employee have to book a space? Every organisation will be different depending on the size of the workplace, whether they plan to downsize office space to save on money, and whether all or just some of their employees take up the offer. Your first step is to see how your workforce feel about hybrid working.
If you are to bring people back into the workplace slowly, consider introducing hybrid working as an opportunity to execute this safely. You may want to implement this change on a temporary and informal basis. If this is the case, a change in contract is not necessary.
However, if you are to introduce hybrid working on a permanent basis, you need to be aware that contractual changes will need to be made. You will also need to put in place a process where your employees can request it formally through a flexible working policy.
Be mindful that if an employee chooses to work from home all of the time, they should add their location to the contract. You should also advise them to speak with their landlord or mortgage provider as well as their house insurer as there may be further implications to working from home.
Communication between manager and the employee is key to achieving inclusion and fairness. There are many reasons why an individual cannot, or believes that they cannot, put themselves forward for hybrid working. This could be due to child-care issues, health reasons, responsibilities outside of work and more.
As workplaces open up and individuals are returning from furlough, make sure that all employees now have easy access to training and development. Unfortunately, those who have been on furlough may feel that they need to refresh their skills or knowledge, or spend some time getting up to date with the changes.
Here are some point you must consider:
- Are there any inequalities? Don’t think of these as failures on your part, it is just a fact that the pandemic caused some which were out of everybody’s control.
- Create plans to address these inequalities.
- For those employees who have roles not suited to hybrid working, create ways that they too can benefit from flexible working.
- Be aware that the employees’ experience should be the same no matter their location. For instance, if you are planning a ‘desk drop’ to introduce a new product, remember to send something to your remote workers too.
In addition, you’ll need to be careful that your culture isn’t impacted negatively. To prevent this risk, we urge you to keep talking to your employees and encourage continual feedback. Knowing what makes your workforce tick, and acting on this, is crucial to the future success of your business post Covid-19.