Hybrid working – key considerations

It is now fairly well established that many employees want a more hybrid or blended approach to work in the future, with some time spent in the office and the remainder at home.  This will of course mean different things to different organisations and individuals.  There is no one single way to ‘do’ hybrid.  Even within one workplace there may need to be different forms and approaches depending on job role or operational requirements. 

If you are thinking about introducing hybrid working in the future, it is likely that you will need some sort of policy or a set of guiding principles setting out your intentions and providing information for both employees and people managers.

Organisational policies will need to reflect their specific context and circumstances but there are some areas that every policy needs to consider:

1.     Your own definition of hybrid working. Does hybrid mean a 50/50 split? Does it mean people can work from home on a Friday? Can it be used in conjunction with other forms of flexible working?  Does it mean that employees can decide for themselves each and every day where to work, or is this something that needs to be managed at a team level?  Start with defining what hybrid means for your organisation with your particular context.

2.     Eligibility. Who can have hybrid working?  Is it potentially for everyone, or are there roles where it just isn’t an option?  It is likely that in many organisations there will people that can work remotely and people that cannot.  Where people can, there will be further layers within this too.  Some roles may lend themselves to being almost entirely remote whereas others will demand a greater onsite presence.  Who will decide which role falls into which category?  Setting this at an organisational level will help to ensure consistency and fairness.  One option is a ‘job families’ type approach with clear descriptors. 

3.     Hygiene factors.  A policy or guidance should set out the organisation’s approach to the practical stuff.  Are you going to contribute to household expenses like heating and lighting?  Are you going to pay an employee’s broadband costs?  Will you be providing desks, chairs and screens?  Where an office or permanent workstation is also provided in the workplace an organisation may be reluctant to accept double costs. There are no hard and fast rules here, as long as health and safety requirements can be met. Once again, different approaches may be needed for different role types or teams. 

4.     Clear expectations. When it comes to hybrid working, everyone needs to know what is expected of them. When and how do people need to be contactable?  What are the requirements about when people have to come into the office?  What are managers expected to do around considering requests and managing performance?  Clarity at the outset will help to ensure new ways of working are successful. 

5.     Safeguards against bias.  Before the pandemic we know that people who worked flexibly were subject to a range of stereotypes, bias and stigma. I am sure that many readers will have known managers who turned down flexible working requests for their own reasons, including because they simply didn’t want people to work in that way.  Ideally, decisions about flexible working should be made by the employee’s immediate manager as they are familiar with the role requirements. However, there also needs to be oversight of decisions, especially when the organisation takes an informal approach to managing requests.  Without oversight employees may be unfairly denied the opportunity to work in a hybrid way.

The very varied nature of hybrid working mean that for the most part, the best approach will be to determine organisation-wide principles, with teams empowered and supported to implement them as they see fit and for their particular needs.  There is much still to learn about hybrid working – keeping any new principles and ways of working under review is one more key to success.