While some employees will want to work from home all the time after the pandemic, recent research has shown the vast majority would prefer a balance where they are in the office for some of the week and at home for the remainder. This has led to the use of a relatively new term: Hybrid Working.
Hybrid working refers to any combination of in office and remote working dynamics that grant employees more autonomy over where, when and how they get their work done. Organisations who do not support such flexible forms of working may therefore risk increased employee turnover, reduced employee engagement and limitations on the ability to attract talent in the future.
- A greater feeling of autonomy and independence
- Greater productivity
- Greater ability to focus with fewer distractions
- Lower risk of burn out
- Saved commuting time & cost
- Overall a better work-life balance.
- Health & wellbeing advantages from increased exercise opportunities
- A more motivated, energised and productive workforce
- Savings on office space
- Reduced absence rates
- Greater performance against organisational targets
- A wider talent pool of candidates outside of traditional geographies
- Employees can feel isolated & disconnected creating low motivation & even anxiety
- Procrastination levels increase with employees lapsing into bad habits
- Poor connectivity, inadequate working environments and lack of suitable hardware will hinder performance
- Communication, sounding boards and idea generation can become stifled
- Boundaries between personal & professional lives can be eroded, impacting an individual’s ability to focus whilst working or to relax when the working day is done.
As such organisations need to ensure their teams feel the same level of mental and emotional support and have the same technological capabilities as they would in the office. Formal and informal communication channels need to be opened and people managers need to have a greater awareness and take a much greater interest in working patterns and employee wellbeing.
How to implement effective Hybrid Working
1. Take a strategic position & create policy documents that reflect this
Agree an overall strategic position on hybrid working and develop a policy and supporting guidance reflecting the strategy. Although hybrid working is a ‘way of working’ it is still a policy and your employees need a policy statement. The decision about who can work remotely and for what proportion of time must be a policy one. In practice it will differ from workplace to workplace, team to team and even person to person dependant on what is considered appropriate and suitable. A policy statement will clarify this for your staff.
2. Utilise and train your people managers
Engage people managers throughout the organisation, providing an opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns. Provide training and development to support successful hybrid working. Although managers may have developed new skills in terms of managing a remote workforce, hybrid working brings unique challenges that are different from both predominantly remote and predominantly office-based working. Organisations will need to put learning and development in place to ensure effective people management.
Develop a communication strategy to share plans for hybrid working including communication plans for when the hybrid model is in operation. Plan for and respond to the organisational implications of hybrid working on matters such as technology, employee wellbeing, inclusion and facilities. Plan for effective team building and cohesion in hybrid teams. When communication is 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 needs to be more intentional as casual or ad-hoc conversations may be reduced. Effective communication needs to be seen as the responsibility of everyone in the team. Build in regular social and human connection opportunities to support employee engagement and team building is vital.
4. Consider technology
Technology 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. In addition to technology, consider what other equipment will support effective and healthy remote working, including the provision of office furniture or mobile devices.
5. Manage employee wellbeing
The employee wellbeing implications of COVID-19 will require focus for some time. This may include supporting employees experiencing poor mental health, addressing specific concerns and anxieties about the return to the workplace and the impact of Long COVID. Hybrid working may bring with it specific challenges around work-life balance and managing the boundaries between work and home. Consider providing training and support to employees on managing work-life balance and digital wellbeing to help employees mindfully disconnect. Ensure managers are aware of potential signs and symptoms of poor wellbeing or mental health, as these may be harder to detect whilst employees are working in a remote or hybrid way.
6. Change how you performance manage
When employees are working remotely or more flexibly, their performance may be harder to observe. Managers will need to adjust to assessing performance through outcomes, contribution and value. You will need to consider if current performance management systems and processes are fit for purpose in a hybrid environment? Ensure managers have 121 time with team members on a regular basis to discuss performance and update objectives. Have mechanisms to identify and reward great performance, as well as address poor performance.
7. Review employee attraction, development & retention
Hybrid working affects all aspects of the employee lifecycle. Organisations will need to review each stage in order to identify where amendments need to be made in order to enable effective hybrid working. This includes recruitment, processes, company culture, values, teamwork, team building, training, performance management, reward and recognition & career development.
There is no one way to do hybrid. The most effective arrangements will be the ones that suit the organisation. The best way to identify that suitability is to assess what went well in in 2020 and where the challenges lay. Hybrid working will require a rethink of how jobs are structured with job redesign will be critical for those employers ready to embrace the benefits of offering remote working options.