One of the silver linings of the terrible COVID-19 pandemic has perhaps been the dramatic shift in attitudes to how and where people can work. Many people cannot wait to get back to the buzz of the traditional office-base, but perhaps just as many will be dreading the resumption of the commute, the loss of time and quiet space. Perhaps at least as many again would like to preserve the best of both worlds. As we emerge into the new normal, many employers are considering how they can embrace or adapt to the new ways of working.
ACAS’s recent survey showed that over half of employers expect an increase in employee requests for flexible working and a similar number of employers expect more staff to be working remotely all or part of the week. Many employers are signalling that they recognise the benefits of being able to offer a flexible approach to where and when people work.
With so many possible options, ACAS has produced new guidance https://www.acas.org.uk/hybrid-working to help employers considering whether hybrid working could work for them.
What is hybrid working? It is a type of flexible working where staff split their time between working remotely and in their employer’s workplace.
Why might it benefit an employer? As ACAS comments, it can help increase productivity and job satisfaction, attract and retain a more diverse workforce and improve trust and working relationships.
Suitability? Not all roles will be suitable to work in this way. You may need different hybrid arrangements for the business to function efficiently, and employers should assess this carefully before taking any next steps. Such an assessment will include how, when and where work could be done, taking into consideration issues such as:
- health and safety (including wellbeing and mental health)
- cybersecurity and how to protect confidential information
- how staff can be supported and managed remotely
- practical arrangements, such as equipment, and whether there is a suitable space for them to work at home
- who will bear the costs of setting up and running the home office
- how to ensure staff can communicate and work together
If an employee’s request to work remotely includes working from abroad, there are additional matters to consider which we have set out a summary of in our article here.
Consultation. If an assessment results in the possibility that hybrid working could be feasible, the next step is to consult with staff about the proposals. Employers should consult carefully with all staff and particularly individuals with disabilities, or those who have caring responsibilities, to ensure that any specific adjustments they need are made and to avoid possible claims for discrimination.
Implementation. If you do decide to implement hybrid working, you could consider a trial period first. In any event a policy explaining how it will work within the organisation and the limitations will assist in managing expectations. Of course, as with any policy, it will need to be kept under review and to account for any new rules related to the pandemic and any evolving needs of the organisation. Managers should also be trained on how to ensure staff who hybrid work are treated fairly and equally, and they should have access to the same work, support and opportunities for training, development and promotion as non-hybrid workers.
If you require any advice about hybrid working, including how to decide whether it is right for your company or organisation, or how to put together and implement a hybrid working policy, please do get in touch with us ….