Home and away – What do we actually mean by hybrid working?
There has been a lot of hype and chatter around the increase in hybrid working. With mounting evidence that it can be good for employers and the team, we are getting more enquiries about what it is and how to implement it. In this, the first of two companion articles, we’ll look at what we actually mean by hybrid working and overview the questions surrounding implementing it.
What is hybrid working and what are the practicalities?
In its simplest terms, hybrid working is a new name for what we used to generally call working from home. Essentially, if an employee has a ‘hybrid’ work pattern it means they are at home (or sometimes another off site location base) some of the time and in the workplace for the rest. This is arranged around an agreed pattern with their managers. So, in essence at least, it is a simple enough idea.
The seemingly ever present fall out from the Covid pandemic has been a very influential factor in the sudden increase in hybrid work practices. During the lockdowns it became clear for many employers that working from home was not only possible, but it also had a number of benefits. Productivity was maintained and in some cases increased, employees benefited from better work life balance, cost of premises was reduced and so on. In fact, if we learned anything useful from the pandemic it was that our traditional ideas about the workplace were perhaps a little too fixed.
We are finding our clients have a lot of questions around whether hybrid patterns are workable and right for them. The practicalities are often the biggest barrier to changes in working practices, so they are a good place to start. After all, if you simply cannot accommodate hybridity in your workplace, that’s the end of the story. However, there is also the twin aspects of whether it is worth it for your business and if it is right for your company. Being practically workable and being the right thing to do are not always the same thing. The practical isn’t the be all and end all of a move to hybrid working and, as we all probably know from bitter experience, just because you ‘can’ do a thing, doesn’t mean you ‘should’ do it. We will cover this in more detail in the next companion article. In general, though, as a base line you should be considering such questions as:
1. Can you see a hybrid way of working being practical based on the job roles of the employees?
2. What work patterns would be suitable for your business?
3. Do you have the technology in place to allow for remote working?
4. Can you implement it fairly?
5. Will your management structure and communication with employees be affected detrimentally by the change?
6. Are you considering the impact on work life balance for your employees?
7. Will you need to change contracts, job descriptions, insurance, and other standard documentation?
8. Will the financial benefits outweigh the cost of setting up a hybrid working structure?
9. Will it be implemented fully as a permanent practice, or will you trial it first to see how it fits with your business?
Finally, there is one big question to ask prior to implementing any change of this nature in your workplace and that is ‘do the employees actually want it’? From the point of view of the team it could well be a huge boost to their work/life balance, but that’s not something to take for granted. As a rule of thumb so far at least, the majority of workers seem to prefer a hybrid system with figures varying from just over 50% generally to a very conclusive 73% in a 2021 report from Microsoft, but that is not to say yours will feel the same. Also, we need to bear in mind that it is still very early days when it comes to remote working. Over time we may see a shift in these patterns.
So, is hybrid working worth it to a business?
Well, as always, it is about your circumstances first. Assuming the practical questions are answered, it stacks up operationally, has financial benefits, and the employees want to go to hybrid work patterns, then clearly it is worth investigation. However, what we are saying there is that assuming everything is in favour of something you should think about doing it. The reality is likely to be very different so taking advice is essential.
It is rare that any decision is clear cut in business, particularly when it comes to your employee’s wellbeing. There are always alternate options and decisions to be made and they are not always immediately evident. So, when it comes to having a percentage of your staff in the workplace or at home on specific days, less defined factors may also come into play such as:
• The potential drop in community spirit and engagement
• The amount of contact needed by some being larger than others
• A potential drop in the ‘creative contact’ element of the working day?
• How many days will you allow in each location for optimum performance?
These are just a few of the peripheral questions you will find yourself asking along with other options. For example, would a four day week serve you better in your circumstances?
Whatever else, the rise in hybrid working is certainly proving to be a very successful phenomena at the moment and that alone points to it being an option for you. There is a lot to think about and some practical challenges, but again, if the benefits outweigh these then it is well worth considering.
To reiterate a point from earlier, it really is all about what’s right for you, your team and your business. A lot of what you will need to consider will be around human resources though, so if you are considering a hybrid policy, call us and let’s chat.