It’s fair to say the Covid-19 pandemic has caused disarray amongst many businesses, leaving many organisations in limbo and facing difficult challenges. However, the rise of remote and flexible working has brought a new era of working, with employees able to work whenever and wherever.
Research indicates that after the pandemic the majority of workers want to continue to work from home at least some of the time, presenting new opportunities for organisations to establish new ways of working. Recent reports show that some 40% of employers said they expect more than half their workforce to work regularly from home after the pandemic has ended.
The stay-at-home government initiative gave employees a chance to prove to HR managers and directors that working from home can be good for motivating staff but also productivity levels and company efficiency.
While some employees want to work from home post-pandemic, the general census shows most employees would prefer a balance between the office and home. This has led to the use of a relatively new term: hybrid working. Hybrid working will mean a significant culture shift, with many businesses having to establish new ways of working and associated policies and practices.
Despite the unprecedented challenges of working through a global pandemic, both employees and directors have managed to identify many benefits of working from home, for both themselves and their organisation.
Benefits include a better work-life balance, greater ability to focus with fewer distractions, more time for family and friends, saved commuting time and costs, IT upskilling and higher levels of motivation.
Aside from personal benefits, there are also business benefits such as savings on expensive office space, remote training and career development meaning fewer expense forms and reduced absence rates.
As with any plan or strategy, clear communication and reassurance about the changes proposed need to be given to all employees as well as ongoing wellbeing support.
In relation specifically to short-term hybrid working, HR managers/directors could:
There is no single way to implement hybrid working, and it's likely to vary from organisation to organisation, however, there are some simple tips and important considerations to think about when planning to shift to hybrid working.
Hybrid working is a form of flexible working. Therefore, employers could consider either adapting or updating an existing flexible working policy to include hybrid working as a specific category or introducing a specific hybrid working policy. This allows employees to understand what is expected of them within their job role and their responsibilities, as well as, homeworking wellbeing support and IT usage/expenses.
What’s more, hybrid working also means employment contracts could be updated stating a contractual location. This does not necessarily change as a result of hybrid working, but employees who work permanently from home normally have their home address as their workplace. Employees could also be advised to discuss any implications of homeworking with their landlord or mortgage provider and house insurer etc - any implications should be discussed between the organisation and employee(s).
For hybrid working to be successful, it is critical to have an effective communication plan in place, if internal communications are not well managed it can result in poor information flow, knowledge gaps, barriers to effective team working and exclusion of team members who are not in the office.
Communication within hybrid teams could be seen as the responsibility of everyone in the team, this may include; meetings being held online by default, teams/departments being supported to hold their own communication plans and incorporating regular social connection opportunities for team-building purposes.
Along with communication, technology similarly plays a critical role in hybrid working. Employees need to be able to work seamlessly between workplace and home, and there needs to be ease of connectivity between people in the office and those working remotely.
This can be achieved by providing a mix of recommended tools (with implementation support) to enable hybrid meetings and collaboration, and putting in place the appropriate security measures to ensure system and data integrity.
In conclusion, there's a multitude of different obstacles organisations have to tackle to ensure a harmonious working environment. If hybrid working is the future, it’s worth investing the time and training to get it right.