According to recent research, more than 60% of businesses plan to adopt hybrid working post-pandemic.
Government restrictions and repeated lockdowns resulted in record numbers of employees working from home. And many are reluctant to return to the daily commute to the office now that the rules on how we live and work have been eased. Business owners have realised the benefits of allowing employees to work remotely sometimes, too — better utilisation of office space, lower overheads, increased employee wellbeing, and higher productivity, to name a few.
So, how can you successfully implement hybrid working in your business?
Hybrid Working Best Practices
Establish Clear Policies and Expectations
Hybrid working is new to many organisations and employees. Writing a comprehensive hybrid working policy and being available to respond to queries and concerns is the foundation of a successful hybrid working model. You must align employer and employee expectations.
Is there no limit on how often people can opt to work from home, or do you expect everyone to attend the office on certain days or for key events? Must remote staff be online and available during core hours? What is the protocol for conference calls — office attire? No pets? A minimum broadband width? Avoid any confusion or misunderstandings by setting clear boundaries from day one.
And remember to check with your legal advisor regarding contract updates. Switching from a fully office-based model to a hybrid one will necessitate a change in the terms and conditions of employee contracts.
Train the Leadership Team
Ensure that the leadership team and anyone with management responsibilities understands the potential problems with hybrid working and have strategies to deal with these challenges.
Senior staff need to set the tone and help to guide their colleagues in the early transition period and beyond. They will also need support to adapt to hybrid working and managing remote teams.
Invest in Useful Technologies
Remote working will require an initial upfront investment in the software and systems necessary to communicate with remote workers effectively. This is likely to involve setting up a team communication platform like Slack or Microsoft Teams. Installing room booking software so that employees can reserve the workspace they need when they come into the office and making sure that everyone has access to video conferencing software, such as Zoom, could also help. The specific needs of your business will dictate any additional technological requirements you have. Don’t skimp on tech. Your employees rely on this to remain in the loop and be productive while working from home.
Don’t Neglect Training and Development
When employees are out of sight, it is harder to identify training and development needs as they arise. Yet you must address these to maintain a happy and engaged workforce.
Recent research suggests that in-person workers may be more likely to get promoted. They have the opportunity to build relationships with key members of staff and the leadership team. More visible staff members can also demonstrate their skills, knowledge, and experience daily, whereas home workers’ capabilities may go more easily unnoticed.
Build learning and development (L&D) into hybrid working policy and processes. L&D is crucial for enabling employees to develop the skills and knowledge to excel in their roles and progress. As a result, you will foster a more positive, inclusive culture and higher employee morale.
Mistakes to Avoid
Hybrid working offers a host of benefits to both employers and their people when it is implemented with consideration and proper planning.
Before implementing a hybrid working policy, make sure you understand how to do so fairly. Will you make this an option for all employees or only particular groups? If the latter, who will you justify this and make it fair?
Employers who implement a hybrid model without thinking this through risk jeopardising inclusivity. Those required to turn in to the office every day, such as maintenance or IT staff, may seem like they are at a disadvantage. However, the office-based crowd is often more visible to the leadership team and maybe favoured for the most lucrative and rewarding projects and be first in line for promotion. It’s easy to overlook employees who are rarely on-site.
Even if all employees are offered the same choice regarding where they work, a hybrid system, if not monitored and managed carefully, could result in certain types of people being or feeling excluded. An introvert or someone with caring responsibilities at home may be more inclined to work remotely than some of their more extrovert, care-free colleagues. In this scenario, the hybrid setup can inadvertently position certain groups of people in a more favourable position for advancement.
Stifling Collaboration and Creativity
Office-based employees can jump into a room at a moment’s notice and have a lively brainstorming session to troubleshoot a problem or develop an innovative set of ideas for an important client pitch. Being in a room makes it easy to read each other’s body language, use a wide range of resources and equipment, and have rapid-fire exchanges that foster creativity and problem-solving.
Video conferencing for the same purposes is entirely possible but requires careful forethought and management. You need access to the right technology, and there must be a strong host who keeps the meeting on track while ensuring that remote and office-based participants have equal opportunities to contribute. It can be more challenging to develop the communication flow necessary for effective group brainstorming, especially if there are problems such as tech glitches.
Failing to Provide Essential Home Office Equipment
Don’t assume that your employees have the perfect home office setup. If you allow them to work remotely, make sure they have everything they need to be productive. This might include providing a company laptop, subsidising their internet connection, and funding the purchase of essential equipment such as a supportive office chair.
You should also provide employees with information and guidance about safely setting up their home office to avoid strain and injury and training on any software they need to communicate with the office.
Failure to provide essential guidance and equipment will negatively impact productivity and morale.
A hybrid working model offers benefits for both employers and employees. Careful planning and preparation are required to succeed in this way of working. Make sure that you provide your employees with all the resources, training, and support they need to feel valued and deliver their best performance — wherever they are based.