Hybrid Working

Hybrid Working – Why we need it, what it is and how to protect your business

Over the past year it has become necessary and a legal requirement for your staff to work from home where their position is not specified as a critical worker.

Employers have had to loosen their grip on employees and find creative ways in which to engage and maintain productivity levels and ensure the health and safety of all concerned.

Working from home has created its challenges and employers have found creative ways to deal with these challenges. Now that the lockdown is due to come to a complete end in June of this year, employers are now facing a new challenge – getting their staff back into the office!

For some this is not going to be an issue. For others however, with underlying health issues or those who genuinely fear becoming exposed and ill and those who just prefer to work from home, agreeing a way forward could be fraught with complications.

But first let’s take a look at what ‘Hybrid Working’ is

Hybrid working is allowing an employee to work both from home and the office on a more permanent basis. Many companies will want to confirm this by updating contracts and completing change to terms and conditions, while providing a policy on home working for both employer and employee to follow. Some companies will not want to encourage hybrid working at all. So, what do you need to think about?

Things to consider in more detail:

  1. Ensuring your business is protected and running efficiently at all times is paramount. It may be from time to time that you need members of your team who work from home to come into the office for either short or prolonged periods of time. Ensure you have clarity around your policy and that it is clearly communicated to your employees so they can see how and when this might take effect and what is required from them.
  2. Continuing to communicate the standards expected around hybrid working is key, this means enabling your employees to clearly understand what is expected of them, including their productivity levels and performance. This is because if you see a drop in these or you feel and you have evidence of home working being abused and mistreated then you can deal with this through appropriate channels, which may in the first instance be an informal off the record chat, but should things deteriorate – could lead to disciplinary.
  3. If your employees work from home, all or part of the time you are legally required to ensure their health and safety requirements are met. This will apply to workstations and all equipment being used. You must make sure they have all the equipment they need to do their job as if they were in the office. There will also be an expectation to carry out and record annual health and safety checks and electrical testing in their home.
  4. Protecting your data is crucial and you are still required to comply with the applicable GDPR regulations. Ensuring your IT systems are in place to protect your business and client data is really important too, just because your employees are at home, doesn’t mean you don’t still have to be tight on data security. The ICO did give a one year ‘non fine’ window, however this is coming to an end, therefore reviewing your policy and practices would be recommended. You will also need to ensure that staff who work from home follow your data protocol and procedures and report any data breaches in the appropriate way.
  5. As with all things, ensuring your members of staff are treated equally and fairly regardless of where they work will become key. Each person should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis but watch out for the precedent you are setting. If working from home may hinder career progression you need to look seriously at why this is the case, because it won’t necessarily be legal and could land you in a tribunal.
  6. Home working is not a punishment or a way to brush things under the carpet. If you find someone has raised allegations of harassment or abuse or perhaps there is a team dynamic that isn’t working, don’t automatically think of homeworking to solve the issue. Nip it in the bud and get to the root cause.
  7. Keeping employees engaged and protecting their wellbeing can be easy if you do it right. Regular check ins, team meetings and arranging team building exercises and socials both online and in person should all be part of your people management. A happy, motivated and engaged team will lead to higher productivity and business success.
  8. Hybrid Working doesn’t fit all business models, and that is OK. It is good practice to go through the exercise to demonstrate this way of working has been really thought through and understand your reasons as to why it doesn’t fit. Employees only get upset when they don’t clearly understand something or feel you are being unfair.
  9. You may be concerned about training or social aspects to the business and more practical elements of day to management that are traditionally always done face to face. What covid has taught us if nothing else is that if we put our mind to it, we can usually find solutions, and this can be the same for all areas of your business.

Hybrid working is about letting your employees and business have the ‘best of both worlds’ at home and in the office. Employees thrive in different environments and to get the best out of everyone, you may want to consider hybrid working if it is linked to higher productivity, engagement and retention. If you are looking at Hybrid Working and want further support or advice, please get in contact with the HR Ready team on: 01223 641017