Hybrid working is here, but is it really the future of work? The pandemic has, without doubt, challenged and changed the way in which organisations operate. It has sparked the biggest and fastest transformation of workplaces at a pace that we have never seen before.

It is clear that things are not going to return to the way they were before the pandemic and businesses are now looking toward a new future and a different way of working.

With growing pressures from a Government keen to see employees back in the workplace, could hybrid working be one of the answers?

What is hybrid working?

We often hear the term “hybrid working” but what does that mean? Hybrid working is a type of flexible working where an employee splits their time between the workplace and remote working, which will often involve working from home.

According to research by the CIPD, more than half (51%) of employees say they have flexible working arrangements in their current role, with this number looking likely to increase. More than a third (37%) of organisations have seen an increase in flexible working requests and more than two-fifths of organisations (42%) say they are more likely to grant requests for flexible working, compared with before the pandemic.

Pre-pandemic the average proportion of the workforce typically working from home on a regular basis was 19%; since the pandemic, this has risen to 44%!

The evolution of hybrid working has involved a considerable shift in mindsets and cultural norms for organisations and their employees.

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How to keep people connected

The more time people spend working from home, the more important it becomes to ensure we keep people feeling connected, not just in terms of work but also socially. Businesses need to look at ways in which they can engage with their teams, whether that is a weekly 1-2-1, team calls, or something that involves a group fitness session online – whatever works!

Organisations need to ensure that no matter where they are, their teams feel supported, heard, and able to achieve their goals and ambitions.

It is important to support the way employees choose to work, but there is something to be said for spending dedicated time together in a working environment, even if it is just one day a month. Face-to-face time gives people the opportunity to engage with their colleagues and share learnings and support. Working in the office doesn’t always need to be the default; there are plenty of other places people can meet!

How to maintain productivity

There is a lot of research to suggest that people are just as productive when they work from home as they are working in the office and that productivity has continued to climb as employers embrace hybrid working. However, there won’t be a “one size fits all” approach as it will depend on the organisation, and every organisation will need to develop their own practices.

The ITV’s political editor Robert Peston highlighted a survey which identified that 85% of people believe they are as productive or more productive working from home.

Hybrid working policy

If you are considering introducing hybrid working, you should create a hybrid working policy outlining:

  • how hybrid working works within your business – for example, allowing employees to work 3 of their 5 days remotely or from home, the requirement for hot-desking and so on
  • flexible working arrangements and limits
  • employee conduct, technology, dress code, health and safety, data protection or limitations due to security reasons

It is important to note that hybrid working focuses on the balance between remote and office-based working and does not amend working hours.

Your hybrid working model should sit separately from your flexible working policy. Flexible working applies to individual employee needs. At present, employees who have 26 weeks service and who have not made a statutory request in the last 12-month period are entitled to submit a flexible working request. Requests can be made for a number of reasons such as reducing from full-time work to part-time, for example when returning from maternity leave; compressed hours, to assist with caring responsibilities; or in relation to reasonable adjustments for a disability. Each request should be assessed on a case-by-case basis and align with your business needs

How do you know if hybrid working will work in your business?

When looking at whether a hybrid working approach will work in your business, consult with your employees. Find out what solutions, wherever possible, meet your employees’ needs along with the needs of the business.

Ask yourself some key questions:

  • Is your infrastructure set up so that people can work from home?
  • Do people have the right working environment to be based at home for some of their working week?
  • Are there costs you could save by changing your office space?
  • Do you really need that big office which is now potentially sitting empty for half of the week, or would you be better off hiring a meeting space when you want to get people together?

These are some of the things you need to be asking yourself and your team when looking at whether a hybrid working approach will work for you.

The future of hybrid working

One of the things hybrid working has enabled people to do is to have a better work-life balance, enabling people who might be older or have caring responsibilities to deliver in both aspects of their lives. It also allows people to reduce their monthly costs around commuting and childcare, a key concern for many people struggling with the current cost of living crisis. People have often found that they were having to compromise on one of these elements. Such enablement can have positive impacts on a person’s mental health by allowing them to fix what may have been a poor work-life balance.

Those businesses that no longer offer flexibility are likely to struggle to attract and retain staff, particularly with the current recruitment market and with nine out of 10 people wanting flexibility in their next job!

It is entirely plausible that employers and employees can get the best out of both worlds by having a hybrid working approach, but businesses will need to consider how best to implement it, to ensure it delivers what is required for both the business and its employees.

If you would like help with managing a flexible working request, supporting remote workers or updating your contracts of employment and handbook policies to reflect your new working practices, please get in touch and a member of our team will be happy to help you.