Hybrid working is where staff combine working from home and from the office. This isn’t a new concept and has existed for a long time but is now far more popular as a result of the pandemic. Employees who have been working from home for the past year might want to continue doing this. Some may want to return to the office full time and others might want to split their week between home and the office.
For some, it might be hard to return to the office full time after a year of working from home. Therefore, a hybrid working arrangement might be a good compromise for a short period of time to get used to it.
Despite the challenges of changing the way your organisation works, there are many benefits of hybrid working. For employees, it allows a better work-life balance, more time for family and friends, saving money on commuting and higher levels of motivation. There are also the potential benefits of saving money on office space, reduced absence rates and increased employee job satisfaction.
It’s vital that people managers regularly keep in contact with their teams, regardless of if they are working from home or the office. Communication is what will make hybrid teams successful.
When it isn’t well managed, it can result in knowledge gaps, information barriers and potential exclusion of those who aren’t in the office. Casual and ad-hoc conversations will be reduced without as many people in the office, so communication has to become more intentional, and it has to be seen as the responsibility of everyone on the team. Some considerations to be made for Hybrid teams are:
- Holding meetings online by default. This ensures that everyone’s experience of the meeting is the same. Communication can be disrupted when some people are in person and others are present virtually.
- Discuss with your teams how communication should work going forward. How often should you meet physically? How do you ensure that communication is inclusive of everyone?
- Review how many meetings you have scheduled in a week. It is understandable that there may be many planned online when there isn’t an alternative to meet in person, but it can be exhausting for people to be in online meetings for several hours a day. Depending on feasibility and what works best for your organisation, you could decide not to have meetings planned for an hour every day to allow time for lunch or have one day a week where there are no meetings scheduled.
- Using Microsoft Teams and/or Slack can reduce the need for long online meetings. The chat functions these platforms have allows people to have a more flexible schedule and reduces the need for unnecessary online meetings.
- Introducing regular social opportunities where possible to support employee engagement and team building.
The demands on people managers will and have changed as a result of the pandemic and the introduction, for many organisations, of hybrid teams. Managing remote teams and managing hybrid teams are very different, so it’s really important that people managers get some training in how to do this effectively. The most important parts of this are how to manage requests for hybrid and/or flexible working at an individual and team level, including the initial implementation of new ways of working. Developing skills to ensure effective communication, performance management, team and relationship building and collaboration in hybrid teams will also be important.
Inclusion and fairness
It’s important to recognise that not everyone will want or be able to work in a hybrid way. Offering other forms of flexible working will ensure fairness among your team. For example, someone who cannot work from home due to the nature of their role or doesn’t want to work from home now that the office is open again, can still be offered flexible working hours or days.
You can learn more about flexible working arrangements and your obligations as an employer here.
Consideration must also be made for the quality of the employee experience between those working at home, and those in the office. Getting feedback will be important and engaging with your teams to hear their ideas. Regular individual catch ups with each team member, if possible, is a good idea to understand how they feel and if the working situation meets their expectations.
If your employees have been working from home for a while, you may already have new performance management processes in place.
It might be harder to observe the performance of someone who is working from home, or more flexibly. Over the past year and likely for a while longer, it’s understandable for employees to struggle being as productive as normal – expectations should be adjusted to account for this.
Up until now, performance might have been assessed based on time in the office, punctuality and attendance. Managers won’t be able to monitor every aspect of an employee’s work when they are working from home – this shouldn’t normally be necessary. Instead, performance should be assessed through what they deliver, their outcomes and the value of their contribution. This checklist may be useful in ensuring people managers are doing everything they can to manage flexible workers.
Recruitment and induction
Elements of the recruitment and induction process might need to be reviewed as a result of changing ways of working:
- Offering hybrid working in any recruitment your organisation carries out. This is likely to support recruiting the best people for the role.
- Ensuring the induction process is suitable for hybrid working. Can the culture of your organisation be emulated online? What activities can you do to help new recruits build relationships with other hybrid team members and office colleagues?
- Review existing performance management systems – are they still relevant?
- What are the organisation’s current reward and recognition strategies, do they need to be developed to ensure they are fair and not biased towards those working from the office?
Policy and procedure
Changing ways of working may also call for a review or implementation of flexible working policies that also include information on hybrid working. This might be including it as a new specific category or introducing a new standalone hybrid working policy. If you do decide to make these changes, there are things that need to be considered before doing this.
- Consider who in the organisation is eligible for a hybrid working arrangement.
- How should an employee request hybrid working?
- How does hybrid working differ to flexible working?
- Are there any other policies that need to be reviewed? E.g. IT. Home working, data protection.
Contracts also need to be considered here. If employees make a formal request for hybrid working through a flexible working policy, this will amount to a formal change to terms and conditions of employment. Hybrid working (and other forms of flexible working) can also happen on an informal basis without a contractual change. Employees and managers need to understand the differences.
Employment contracts need to state a contractual location. This doesn’t necessarily change when hybrid working begins, but if you have employees who work permanently from home, normally they have their home address as their workplace.