Whilst hybrid working existed pre-pandemic, as we look at the reality of living with covid for years to come, it is becoming the norm for more and more businesses to allow staff to work flexibly between home and the office.

Benefits of Hybrid Working

Some of the advantages of hybrid working include the following:

  • Reduction in overhead costs – Where there are fewer staff, there is a reduced need for office space and a reduction in associated building costs such as heating, electricity, and maintenance. Staff also see big savings in terms of time and money commuting to and from a place of work permanently, leading to better work life balance.

  • Increased emphasis on productivity – With a hybrid working model, businesses can alter their measurement of staff performance. In an office environment, managers want to see that everyone present is at their desk working their set hours. In contrast, in a remote working environment, instead of set rigid hours worked, the completion of the project within a set timeframe becomes more important. Ideally, workers will be assessed on their results rather than on their behaviour. This instils trust in employees and gives them a sense of self-motivation. The ability to work flexibly can also boost productivity by fitting in with employees’ personal working schedules. People have their own preferences as to their most productive times of day to work.

  • Access to more talent and retention of existing staff – Employees are given more flexibility between working from home and office working which can be an attractive option to retain existing staff and attract and recruit new staff with good skills who may reside further away from where the business is based.

  • Covid safety – Hybrid working results in reduced numbers in the office at any one time and therefore makes social distancing easier and reduces exposure to Covid-19, which will minimise absence from work due to sickness and the need to isolate.

What to Consider Before Implementing Hybrid Working

When implementing hybrid working, employers should consider the following:

  1. Documenting the hybrid working – It is important to ensure that any changes are documented in writing. This can be done by way of an updated employment contract or letter of variation. This is especially important if working hours are to change, e.g. an early finish or a longer lunch break. Working hours, roles and responsibilities that are expected of employees should be clearly set out in their updated employment contract/letter of variation. This is vital to avoid disputes in relation to what is expected of employees, for example how often employees are expected to attend the office.

  2. Work life balance – It is important to both employers and employees that hybrid working does not result in blurring the lines of a work-life balance. Employees should be encouraged to maintain a work-life balance and be given the relevant training to ensure this is maintained. Those working predominantly from home may feel unsupported and lonely so it is important that communication is effective. This can be done by way of regular meetings (in person or online) with employees to check in on how they are doing and potentially re-evaluate their hybrid working schedule if needs be.

  3. Review existing policies and procedures in your staff handbook – Employers should review policies including expenses, IT usage, data protection and flexible working. Implement a remote working policy if you do not have one. Risk assessments will also need to be carried out with employees working at home. Employers should ensure employees are supported at home and have all necessary equipment and IT software required.

  4. Avoid discrimination – If hybrid working is only available to certain employees e.g. female members of staff with childcare requirements, long-standing employees etc, employers need to be aware that this may lead to claims of direct or indirect discrimination. For example, if a female member of staff has their request accepted to work from home due to childcare arrangements; however, a male member of staff has his request refused, this may result in direct discrimination. Equally, if only long-standing members of staff are allowed to work from home, this means that younger employees are less likely to meet that criteria and so could result in a claim for indirect discrimination. It is important for employers to review the criteria upon which they will permit hybrid and flexible working to ensure it is not discriminatory.

  5. Staff relationships between those working in and away from the office – It is important to boost staff morale and avoid tensions between those working in the office and those working from home, as some may feel disadvantaged. Those working in the office may feel that they are spending more time and money commuting to and from work and potentially perceive that they are working harder than those at home who cannot be seen. It is therefore important to maintain staff meetings and events to ensure effective communication between staff and managers to maintain positive and effective working relationships.

  6. Investing in the right technology – investing in software and efficiently implementing it across a whole workforce is not an easy task. It is vital to invest in the right software to ensure business disruption is kept to a minimum and that speed and security are kept at their best. This will ensure flexibility across the workforce for office working and working from home, whilst making sure each employee is working at their full potential with the relevant technology. It is therefore important that the relevant training sessions are provided to ensure employees are fully equipped to use any new technology effectively. Online training sessions may be of assistance.

  7. Carrying out an employee survey – an anonymous employee survey is an effective way to gather employees’ thoughts on preferred ways of working. If staff know their answers are anonymous they are more likely to be completely honest. This will allow employers to see how staff really feel and enable employers to arrange working schedules and flexibility accordingly whilst ensuring the best possible productivity from staff.

Hybrid working can help both employers and employees be more productive without compromising their work-life balance. The aim should be working efficiently, not merely putting in the hours. Communication must be a priority when it comes to hybrid working to ensure it works effectively. Whether working from home or in the office, every employee needs to feel valued and included. Employees need to be clear on how to communicate, contribute and discuss ideas and managers need to set clear guidelines from the outset to ensure the business is operating efficiently.

If you require advice on updating policies and procedures in the workplace, implementing a remote working or hybrid working policy, responding to a flexible working request or any other employment law or HR enquiry, please contact Farleys’ employment team today on 0845 287 0939 or send your enquiry online.