Hybrid working isn't new, but since the global pandemic, it's more popular than ever. For many companies, some form of hybrid working is here to stay: Office for National Statistics (ONS) data revealed that in February 2022, 84% of individuals who worked from home due to Covid planned on splitting their time between the office and home in the future.
Additionally, the proportion of people following hybrid working schemes rose from 13% in February 2022 to 24% in May 2022.
Satya Nadella – Microsoft's Chairman and CEO – believes "hybrid work represents the biggest shift to how we work in our generation, requiring a new operating model, spanning processes, people and places."
This evidence suggests a hybrid working policy is needed, but what's the best way to create and manage one? There's much to consider, from making the required technological changes and ensuring compliance to providing relevant training.
Once employers have guidelines in place, it's their responsibility to share them and ensure they're adhered to.
What is hybrid working?
This flexible model allows staff to split their time between the office and a remote setting – often the person's home. Historically, flexible working revolved around working hours, but now, the focus is more on location.
Covid led to a sea change in the volume of hybrid workers – driven by necessity. Now, in the 'new normal' world we're living in, many people prefer to divide their week between home and the office. Many reasons are cited, from greater productivity and less time spent commuting to a better work-life balance.
How do you manage a hybrid working policy?
Once you create and share your hybrid working policy, there's still work to be done in terms of implementing, updating, monitoring and enforcing it. In reality, it's an ongoing and iterative process where managers, compliance officers and employees play a role.
1. Training & development
As hybrid working makes its mark, there are new demands on managers, compliance officers and staff. Because of its nature, hybrid working brings unique challenges, and organisations must provide appropriate training.
For example, supervisors should complete a module on managing homeworkers. This prepares them to support and motivate team members who work from home and outlines the legal obligations firms have to remote staff. Additional training may also be required around:
- Managing requests for hybrid working
- Data protection
- Performance management
- Inclusion and diversity
- Induction and employee engagement
At the same time, employees should take an online working-from-home course. This educates them on their responsibilities regarding health and safety, information security, data protection and general compliance issues. It also highlights what support is available should they face challenges.
2. Clear communication
Effective communication is always critical, even more so when hybrid working comes into the equation. But when it's not well-managed, all sorts of issues creep in, from knowledge gaps to team members feeling excluded.
To prevent that, communication within hybrid teams should be intentional. With less time in the office, fewer casual and ad hoc conversations happen, so more planning is required.
With that in mind, managers should think about the best way to hold meetings (and how often). For example, they may decide that all meetings should take place online, ensuring a level playing field and a consistent experience across remote and in-office workers.
It's also important to choose effective communication channels and collaboration tools, but don't overwhelm staff by using too many. The aim is to make sure information reaches everyone, regardless of where they're working.
3. Look into legalities
Alongside clear communication, managers and compliance officers should explore the contractual implications of hybrid working and ask themselves:
- Do the terms and conditions of employment need changing?
- Can our hybrid working policy be carried out on an informal basis?
- Are there tax implications for remote workers?
The answers are influenced by the company in question – size, structure, industry, ethos, and so on.
4. Technology & equipment provisioning
With employees splitting their time between the office and home, it's crucial they can work seamlessly across both spaces. Connecting with people also needs to be easy, whichever location they work from. With that in mind, businesses should:
- Give employees access to the technology they need at home or a budget to spend
- Review office systems and assess whether they support hybrid working
- Research tools for hybrid meetings and implement a solution that works best for your needs
- Put appropriate measures in place to ensure security and data integrity when staff work from home
- Train employees on relevant topics such as information security, data protection, and display screen equipment (DSE).
5. Don't assume well-being is positively impacted
One individual may feel their well-being and productivity improves when they hybrid work; another person's mental health may decline – it depends on the employee and their circumstances.
And so, it's vital to offer employees support if and when they need it. Topics of discussion may include managing work-life balance, creating healthy habits around technology use, and maintaining connections with colleagues. At the same time, managers may need advice on how to:
- Sensitively discuss the impact of hybrid working on people's well-being
- Identify when someone is suffering because face-to-face contact has reduced
6. Ensure fair allocation of work, opportunities & voice
On the one hand, hybrid and flexible working can support inclusion and fairness by giving opportunities to people who cannot work in traditional office-based environments. On the flip side, if your hybrid working policy is poorly implemented, that may create inequalities and proximity bias.
To make sure that doesn't happen, managers should preemptively identify risks and how to mitigate them and ensure they engage with everyone in their team, regardless of physical location. On top of that, it's important to have open and honest conversations with employees.
7. Shake up performance management
Hybrid working makes it harder to observe an employee's performance, meaning assessment metrics should change. For instance, it's no longer about time spent in the office.
Instead, managers should concentrate on objectives, outcomes, contributions and value. To facilitate that, regular one-on-one time with team members is essential – in-person or virtually.
Why is it important to have a hybrid working policy?
A hybrid working policy is essential, ensuring employees and candidates are aware of a company's approach while protecting the business from risks around confidentiality, data protection, and health and safety.
As workers move between the office and their remote environments, hybrid working policies are there to promote fairness, productivity and collaboration.
Every organisation is different, meaning there's no one-size-fits-all approach. Moreover, the route employers want to take doesn't always mesh with how employees feel. That's why it's so important for businesses to create a hybrid working policy and share it.
Important hybrid working policy considerations
A clear hybrid working policy sets expectations, outlines best practices, and holds employees accountable. But what should a hybrid working policy include? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is eligible for hybrid working (and what roles)?
- What type of work is better done at home/onsite?
- What locations can employees work from?
- What will the office/remote split be?
- Will office/remote days be specified or at employee discretion?
- Will remote hours match office hours?
- Who will provide and fund technical resources?
- What technological changes are required?
- What's the plan for managing health, safety and well-being?
- How will managers measure performance?
- What are employees' preferences (it may not be possible to meet varying expectations, but it's useful to keep them in mind)?
The answers to these questions form the basis of your hybrid working policy.
Getting the most out of your hybrid working policy
The workplace is no longer limited to one location, and hybrid working is going from strength to strength. As a result, companies should formalise their approach with a robust hybrid working policy that stakeholders can refer to.
Once in place, it's about managing the policy. Hybrid policy management involves ensuring staff and managers have access to training, support, and technology. Inclusion, fairness and well-being should also be kept in mind. It's a balancing act that requires skill, sensitivity and flexibility.
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