Flexibility is the buzzword of 2021. After a year filled with uncertainty and change, organisations across the world are now allowing (and sometimes even encouraging!) their staff to adopt flexible working arrangements.
For your business, this offers an interesting opportunity. In the past year, many of your employees may have thrived while working from home – but this doesn’t necessarily mean they want to make the move permanent.
That’s where a hybrid approach can be useful. By allowing your employees to try a bit of both – working from the office some of the time, and working from home at other times – you can create a dynamic, personalised working environment that works for everyone’s circumstances.
Hybrid working may offer a useful step forwards for your business. If you want to keep all your employees motivated, making this option available to them is a great place to start.
But is hybrid working right for everyone? What benefits does it provide? And do you need to do any preparation before offering it to your staff? Do you need to re-write the contract of employment and consult with your staff?
Preparing for hybrid working – what do I need to consider?
When it comes to hybrid working, one size does not fit all. You need to carefully consider the needs of your business, your employees, and the customers and industry you work in. To do this thoroughly before making a decision, you should:
- Get your staff’s views on hybrid working; what works & what doesn’t. You can do this by consulting with employee and trade union reps
- Get buy-in from senior management
- Understand the pros and cons of hybrid working
- Understand your legal responsibilities
- Assess whether hybrid working is appropriate in your industry
It is important to create an open dialogue with your employees. You shouldn’t waste time preparing for hybrid working unless it is viable.
One helpful way of getting your workforce’s views is through an employee opinion survey. It is particularly important to do this because hybrid working may be suitable for some people within an organisation, but not others.
Create a dynamic, flexible workplace
Hybrid working is largely untested – yet it has a new and exciting feel to it. And although Hybrid working should not be jumped into without forethought and planning, this flexible working arrangement comes with several noticeable advantages.
By giving your team the option to split their time between the office and home, they will feel:
- Trusted and empowered to work remotely
- Valued, because their home/work needs are being considered
- Motivated to repay the trust shown in them
- Satisfied, if they enjoy hybrid working
Any method of increasing staff satisfaction is certainly worth considering. If implemented correctly, hybrid working has the potential to achieve that!
By adapting your organisation’s working model to enable flexible working, your employees will feel intrinsically more motivated to work hard for a company that looks after them well and offers them a better work/life balance.
Offering flexible working also has wider-reaching benefits, as you can:
- Guarantee that the best individuals want to work for you
- Appeal to a wider selection of candidates
- Optimise employee engagement, satisfaction and loyalty
- Improve your image as a great employer
- Influence your workforce/board-level diversity
- Reduce your fixed cost overheads, by potentially reducing the amount of office space needed & equipment
- Reduce your impact on the environment by reducing the amount of time commuting to and from the workplace
By adapting a hybrid method of working that suits your teams’ requirements, you will also boost the wellbeing of your overall workforce. This results in higher quality engagement and more productive work!
Which industries is hybrid working appropriate for?
The feasibility of hybrid working varies according to the industry your organisation works in. Hybrid working is achievable even if your employees are customer facing, and have to visit clients’ offices/homes, because they can make their own way there without having to return to the office base. Likewise, any organisation that operates largely ‘in the cloud’ can also transition to a hybrid model without too much difficulty.
On the other hand, hybrid working is slightly more difficult if your organisation carries out manual labour. When your employees have to be in the same location (for example, building sites) to achieve something, it makes work impossible to do from home.
Communicating the proposed changes to your team
When you have decided to embrace hybrid working, you need to communicate these proposed changes to your employees. By now, you should have gathered their opinion on hybrid working, however you need to officially enact this change.
This change can be carried out in five key steps:
1. Announce the proposed new hybrid working option, company-wide
2. Arrange individual consultation meetings with employees who may have lingering concerns to address
3. Discuss with each employee how/if they want to use this new option
4. Issue formal notice of the change and obtain written agreement from your employees to indicate their acceptance
5. Re-write your employees’ contracts
This last step is the most tricky, if you haven’t had to edit employee contracts before. You cannot be too cautious when it comes to contracts, and employers have no unilateral right to introduce changes to employee contracts without their consent!
Bringing in a legal/HR expert could be invaluable in this situation to avoid protracted legal disputes with staff over changes to their contracts.
Call a member of our friendly team of consultants for advice and support on implementing hybrid working. We’ll take you step by step through the process, and provide you with everything you will need to carry this out efficiently and effectively.
Re-writing your employees’ contracts
When implementing hybrid working, you need to review your staffs’ contracts of employment, and in particular, the place of work clause. Unless your employees’ contract already allows for flexible working, you need to re-write the contracts to cover this if it is to become a permanent arrangement.
Put simply: the re-write should state when each employee is required to be in the office, and when they can work elsewhere. You could even write this new clause with total openness, by allowing staff to work wherever they want, on whichever days they want.
Regardless of the option you go for, you should still write this clause to contain a control measure. This reserves your right to ask your staff to work elsewhere, as reasonably required.
Finally, your employees should state in writing that they agree to change their contract. This ensures that there is legal harmony, on both sides.
If an employee refuses to sign up to hybrid working, you should explore the reasons for this to try and accommodate any concerns they may have. As a last resort you may consider dismissing and re-engaging staff on the new terms, but expert advice should always be sought before you embark on this step.
Hybrid Working: The next big step for your business?
Hybrid working represents a new, daunting proposition for some companies – particularly if you have dozens of employees. In this case, bringing in an expert HR team could lift the weight off your shoulders, and make sure everything is done right.
Whatever your requirements or concerns, HR Initiatives can help. We have extensive experience helping companies to transition to a hybrid working model – and can advise accordingly on:
- The logistics of moving to a hybrid model
- Ensuring all staff understand what this transition means for them
- How to properly re-write your staff contracts