How to Adopt a Hybrid Working Model

February 15, 2023
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Since the decade began, ‘hybrid working’ has become a bit of a buzzword. So much so, it’s been chosen as the word of the year multiple times by various high profile organisations, including Glassdoor and the Financial Times. Adopting a hybrid working model has been a feature of many UK businesses since the pandemic and rightly so, as it’s proven to be an advantageous way of working for both employers and employees. 

Hybrid working gives us the best of both worlds – it allows us to establish that elusive balance of working collaboratively with teammates in the workplace whilst also maintaining positive relationships with our home lives and families. In this article, we’ll look at the benefits of hybrid working – as well as the disadvantages of hybrid working – and outline why adopting a hybrid working policy may just be the key to unlocking your business’ potential in the coming years.

What is a Hybrid Working Policy?

It’s evident that our attitude towards work has changed over the past few years. We all want a better work-life balance, a better workplace culture and more flexibility with when, where and how we work. The good news is that all of this is possible with a hybrid working model.

By definition, ‘hybrid working’ is a flexible working model where employees work partly in the physical workplace and partly remote, such as at home or from another workspace.

Most employers are able to adopt a hybrid working model, ensuring its success by having an appropriate policy in place. A hybrid working policy is an agreement between employer and employee that outlines the company’s approach to hybrid working and one which clearly states where, when and how employees can work. 

It explains the business’s parameters and what the best practice expectations are – for example, which roles are allowed to work hybrid, the legal rights of hybrid employees, the basic expectations of those in hybrid roles and how a hybrid approach will work in practice. By setting out this information in a policy, it ensures your business can set its expectations, mitigate any issues and hold employees accountable from the get-go. It also ensures employees understand what hybrid working means for them and their role.

Having a hybrid working policy in place is also important because it promotes fairness, collaboration and productivity amongst employees. It enables workers to recognise how they can perform their role whilst moving freely between their desired working locations – whether that’s an office, their home, a co-working space or a local cafe.

Whilst there’s no law requiring a hybrid working policy to be created, it’s advantageous to have one to ensure clear roles and responsibilities. It’s vital, however, that your policy remains fair for everyone and avoids bias or discrimination – take a look at our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion training if you need to know more about this area.

Importance of Hybrid Working in the Future

A recent survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that 84% of people who had to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic said they planned to continue hybrid work going forward. In May 2022, the same survey found that 24% of people benefited from hybrid working in their role, most of whom shared their time between their workplace and their home. 

Another poll has also predicted that 2 in 5 employers will have adopted hybrid working by 2023. Evidently, establishing hybrid working practices is important for the future of work because it’s clearly what people want and what people enjoy. The pandemic caused us all to reassess our needs and priorities, and having a better work-life balance has become essential for many of us.

The options for hybrid working, flexible working and working from home are highly attractive to potential employees and are an easy way to retain existing workers who want to continue working as they did through lockdown. Businesses who do not support flexible forms of working, on the other hand, may risk increased employee turnover, reduced employee engagement and limitations on the ability to attract talent in the future.

Successful hybrid working is also linked to agile working – a method that brings people, technology, time and resources together in the most effective way possible, so that tasks can be completed quickly, accurately and creatively. Agile working requires the most efficient use of people’s work time and work space, including remote working locations. When a team is agile, they perform at their best no matter where or when they’re working.

Offering hybrid working, therefore, will ensure your business is aligned with the future of work. Not only do you need to keep up with the latest trends in automation and technology, but it’s also important that you consider the human aspects of the future of work, including flexibility, social skills, emotional intelligence and digital literacy. The aim is to be in-tune with your employees’ needs, so that not only their productivity and efficiency are maintained, but also their mental wellbeing.

Who Can Adopt a Hybrid Working Policy?

In theory, any type of business can adopt a hybrid working model. It’s also highly beneficial for companies to do so, as hybrid working can boost employee productivity and morale. What’s important is finding the balance between giving your employees the freedom to work where they are most productive and your organisation’s need to pursue its business strategy.

If you’re looking to introduce hybrid working and have never done so before, then it’s a good idea to talk to your staff to discuss the viability and desirability of the idea with them – bear in mind that not everyone will want to work outside of the workplace. Even though surveys suggest it’s increasingly popular, it’s important to consider each person in your business for the approach to be effective. 

Ensure your employees know that the hybrid working policy is there for guidance and as an option for them to pursue – and that it’s not a mandatory way of working if they feel unhappy doing so. A written hybrid working policy will help employees to understand your expectations and intentions if they’re unsure whether hybrid working is for them.

What are the Benefits of Hybrid Working?

We’ve seen that having a clear hybrid working policy in place will help to manage employee expectations about what is and is not possible in their role. In turn, understanding expectations helps to enhance employee wellbeing and will therefore increase employee engagement in the business.

Other business benefits of offering hybrid working include:

  • Increased productivity as workers are happier and more motivated. It also allows employees to work where they can focus best, whether that’s their living room or in an office.
  • Saving the business money, for example, because you no longer need to rent expensive office space, subsidise transport or provide lunches.
  • Saving time, as employees don’t need to commute for as long and can work the hours that suit them best.
  • Better employee retention – employees are less likely to leave because their work-life balance has improved.
  • Opportunities to hire incredible talent from across the world when you’re no longer restricted to people who live in the vicinity of the workplace.
  • Able to better accommodate team members with disabilities – working from home gives people with disabilities or medical conditions the chance to work more comfortably while staying connected.

Disadvantages of Hybrid Working

Although hybrid working brings many benefits to workers and workplaces, it can also have its disadvantages – as you’d expect from any substantial change to the working day.

Hybrid working can cause problems such as:

  • Feelings of isolation amongst employees – not everyone will benefit from working at home and some may need a busy workplace environment to thrive. Remember we are all different. Working away from the main workplace can cause people to feel left out or lonely if it’s not carefully managed.
  • Communication trouble, especially if workers are scattered across various different working locations. All employees will need to make more effort to check-in with each other and managers must ensure everyone is clearly and regularly told what they need to know. Remember to keep communication inclusive.
  • Time differences may also be a challenge if you hire people located in different countries who are in different time zones. Not only can this make meetings difficult but it can also cause delays to projects whilst you wait for people to become available.

What Should a Hybrid Working Policy Include?

There is no fixed list of what should be included in a hybrid working policy, but the recommended sections below should provide you with a template example of what to make note of when creating your own. If you have all of these considerations in place in your hybrid working policy, then you’ll find it much easier to reap the benefits of hybrid working in your organisation. 

  1. Procedure – if your business already has a flexible working policy in place, then you can use this as the basis for your hybrid working policy, as the two are closely linked. This section of the policy should cover your basic expectations, such as who is eligible for hybrid working, how hybrid working can be requested, what people’s responsibilities are when working in this way and how hybrid working relates to your other policies, like flexible working, expenses and data protection.
  2. Legal implications – this part of the policy considers how employees’ contracts will change if they request flexible or hybrid working. For example, any changes to the terms and conditions of their contract, their contracted working location or any tax implications.
  3. Communication – consider, how will your business adapt to ensure those who are out of the main workplace remain involved, informed and included? For example, think about how video calls will be used, how meetings will be held and how teams will communicate with each other effectively.
  4. Training and development – this section is particularly important for managers who are unlikely to have worked with remote employees before. Consider whether the managers in your business need training on how to manage hybrid working or whether they need upskilling in communication, team building or motivation, for example.
  5. Technology and equipment – your hybrid working policy should make reference to how employees can request equipment so that they can work just as efficiently at home as in the workplace. It should also state what equipment or technology employees are entitled to, such as computers, keyboards, phones, video conferencing software, etc. Any technology you use in the workplace may also need to be adapted so that it supports hybrid working, for example, if people no longer have a fixed workstation in the workplace and, instead, multiple people are able to log on or use the same computer (‘hot-desking’), it can cause data security issues that haven’t previously been considered.
  6. Employee wellbeing – it’s vital that all workplace policies consider employee wellbeing and mental health if they are to be truly successful. Whilst hybrid working gives workers a lot more freedom and can support their wellbeing, it can also be challenging for others. Your policy needs to outline what support is available to employees, information on any wellbeing or stress management training they can access and how to access it, plus guidance for managers on how to recognise employees who may be struggling.
  7. Performance management – for managers with remote employees, it can be a lot harder to keep an eye on performance levels, so your hybrid working policy should contain guidance on how managers will be supported and trained to handle this change. Your existing performance management system and reward mechanism may also need to be reviewed to ensure they remain relevant for remote employees.
  8. Inclusion – equality, diversity and inclusion are essential components of any workplace policy and are just as relevant to think about when creating a hybrid working policy. A new way of working may present new challenges when it comes to inclusion, so be sure to consider any new barriers that may arise and how these will be addressed. For example, are opportunities available equally to those who work outside the main workplace? When hiring new remote employees, is diversity kept in mind just as much as it would be if you were meeting everyone face-to-face?
  9. Employee lifecycle – finally, it’s a good idea to include an overview of the employee lifecycle in your hybrid working policy so that everyone can see how hybrid working fits into every stage of their working life, from recruitment and induction to promotion, recognition and professional development opportunities.

How to Adopt a Hybrid Working Model

A ‘hybrid working model’ is the name given to the work style which allows employees to blend their work time between whichever locations they find most productive and convenient. If your business adopts a hybrid working model, then it will benefit from creating a hybrid working policy.

A business that has a hybrid working model allows employees more flexibility to get work done when and where they’re most productive. It means flexible schedules and locations and allows workers to choose when they work with teammates on-site and when they do heads-down work from a remote location. A hybrid model also enables people more flexibility over the times of day they work – some will choose to start earlier whilst others will prefer to work later into the evening.

Online storage company, Dropbox, is a brilliant example of a company with a hybrid working model. In their regular internal surveys during 2020, almost 90% of employees said they were able to be productive at home and didn’t want to return to a rigid five-day in-office workweek. Since then, Dropbox has become what they’ve called a ‘Virtual First company’, meaning remote work outside the office is the primary experience for all employees and the day-to-day default for individual work. They’ve also turned their existing offices into dedicated co-working spaces for when employees want to collaborate in-person.

If hybrid working is new to you and your company, then here are three top tips for adjusting to a hybrid working model:

  1. Ensure your existing workplace supports hybrid working for the days when people are coming in – consider whether you need to introduce a hot-desking policy, a booking system for meeting rooms or a logging-in book to ensure the workplace doesn’t get overcrowded, for example.
  2. Remember that hybrid working requires strong communication and regular maintenance – you can’t establish a hybrid working model and assume there won’t be teething issues. Check in with workers often, ask for their opinion on what is and isn’t working and stay adaptable should things need to change.
  3. Consider whether your business would benefit from a hybrid working schedule – are you happy for employees to decide which days they work where, or would it be better to have designated ‘home’ and ‘office’ days? You could enforce a company-wide schedule, allow individual teams to decide their own routine or leave it entirely up to each employee. Choose the method that best supports your business and your workers.

A hybrid working policy is one of many solutions to an ever-changing world of work. Its popularity has soared in recent years and it shows no signs of slowing down. For this reason, adopting a hybrid approach in your business is likely to be beneficial, for both the future of your company figures and the maintenance of your employees’ health and wellbeing. Why not start the conversation about hybrid working with your staff today?

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