In perhaps one of the biggest cultural shifts we’ve seen in decades, hybrid working has become the norm for businesses the world over — and may continue to be for years to come.
There are a number of clear benefits to hybrid working, and staff undoubtedly enjoy the freedom it provides. Without careful planning and regular monitoring, however, it’s easy for things to get messy.
With this in mind, we at RotaCloud have pooled our collective knowledge and experience of hybrid working in order to bring you these seven top tips for getting hybrid working right...
What is hybrid working?
At its core, hybrid working is a form of flexible working. While flexible working generally means that an employee decides, with their employer, start and finish times that suit them, hybrid working typically refers to the location an employee works from.
Under a hybrid working arrangement, staff divide their time between the office and working remotely — whether that’s from home or some other remote workspace. Depending on the company they work for, the ratio of that split may be determined either by the employee themselves or by their employer.
In truth, hybrid working isn’t all that new. For many, working a few days of the week from home has been the norm for years. The Covid-19 pandemic made hybrid working all the more common, however, either out of necessity due to the need for social distancing in offices, or as a result of employers coming to appreciate the benefits of allowing their staff to do much of their work from home.
For many employees, hybrid working feels like a natural evolution of flexible working — where once they could agree hours that work for them, hybrid working gives them the power to choose their ideal work environment too.
The pros & cons of hybrid working
Before we discuss the steps employers should take to adopt a hybrid working scheme at their workplace, we should touch on both the benefits and points to be wary of.
Happier staff. In addition to making a healthy work/life balance more achievable, being allowed to work without constant supervision can have the effect of lifting employees' spirits and improving their relationship with their manager.
Lower rent & bills. With less space needed to seat their staff, employers all over the world are downsizing the offices and headquarters, saving them tens of thousands of pounds every year on rent and slashing their power bills.
Cost savings for employees. For most, working from home — even if just a few days a week — is far more affordable than commuting daily. With less money spent on petrol, bus and train tickets, and those cheeky Costa coffees on the way to work, many employees report having more disposable income at the end of each month.
Increased productivity. Some staff thrive in busy offices. Others prefer the peace, quiet, and convenience of working alone at home. With a hybrid working scheme, staff get to choose the environment that works best for them based on the task at hand.
Wider recruitment pool. Employers who offer hybrid working schemes are no longer limited to hiring talent that happens to live nearby. Knowing that they can work mainly from home, longer commutes are suddenly much less of an issue for staff considering a role at your company.
Loss of company culture. With some staff working either partly or fully from home, it can be difficult to maintain a sense of camaraderie and company culture. This is especially true in the case of staff who joined your team after a hybrid working scheme was rolled out, as they’ll have no idea how things were back when the team was fully office-based.
Creativity can suffer. As great as platforms like Zoom and Google Meet are, for creative and collaborative tasks especially, it’s often better to be gathered in the same room. Remote working also means that those off-the-cuff comments and casual conversations that so often result in great ideas will happen much less often.
Feelings of division & discrimination. As humans, it’s natural for us to form bonds with those we spend a lot of time around. This can quickly result in a culture of presenteeism under a hybrid working arrangement, however, as staff who work predominantly from home start to feel less valued and worry that they might be overlooked for promotions.
Breakdowns in communication. With some staff in the office and some working from home, it’s easy for assumptions and mistakes to be made concerning the sharing of task-critical information.
Risk of data loss or misuse. With some staff working remotely, employers are right to be concerned about the security of company and customer data. This becomes an even greater threat when staff are carrying company hardware such as laptops and hard drives in and out of the office on a regular basis.
Tips for getting hybrid working right
Whether you’ll be making hybrid working a permanent feature at your business or employing it as a temporary measure, there are a number of things to consider first.
Here are our top tips for getting hybrid working right.
1. Talk to your team first
Before you even begin to think about whether hybrid working would work for your company, it’s important to ask whether your staff actually want it.
Start by surveying your team and asking how they’d see themselves dividing their time between home and the office if you were to switch to a hybrid working scheme. Keep a record of any questions they raise or stumbling blocks they might anticipate, and consider how you'd address them.
If, after hearing from your staff, you’re confident that hybrid working would work both for them and your business, be sure to pilot it for at least six months before making it a permanent feature. Be prepared to react and make changes as you go, and check in with your staff regularly to ensure that the new arrangement isn’t having a negative effect on either their work or wellbeing.
2. Assess your roles’ suitability for hybrid working
Before you roll any sort of hybrid scheme out, consider each of the roles and departments at your company and how they work.
For some departments, having some staff in the office and some working from home simply wouldn’t be practical, and could actually be more disruptive than having everyone doing the same thing.
Consider the day-to-day operations of each department: would the team being split between their homes and the office be conducive to work? Could each team work effectively if all but one of its members were office-based?
If there’s a particular role or department for which hybrid working wouldn’t be practical, this should be clearly explained to the staff involved in advance of any sort of announcement.
3. Create a hybrid working policy
Your management and HR teams need to sit down and document precisely how the hybrid working scheme will work, and what is and isn’t required of your employees when working hybrid roles.
Things you’ll need to consider include:
- Whether hybrid working will be the norm, or if staff need to request it.
- Which roles are eligible for hybrid working.
- How staff should communicate where they’ll be working from, day to day.
- If hot-desking, how workspaces will be claimed or assigned.
- Any caps on the number of days spent at home/in the office.
Once you have this down in black and white, your staff will need to formally agree to this policy before they begin dividing their time between home and the office.
4. Use workforce management software
When your staff are 100% office-based, it’s easy to know who’s ‘in’. This becomes a lot less clear when they start dividing their time between two or more locations, however.
Even if they’re salaried, full-time workers, it’s important to know where each of your hybrid-working staff intends to work from on each day — both from a health and safety perspective in the event of a fire, and so that you know who’ll be dialling into meetings from home.
For this, you’ll need
- a rota displaying employees’ proposed working location and hours, and
- some kind of clocking-in facility so you can record attendance
Cloud-based scheduling and attendance software is a simple, non-obtrusive way of recording the hours your staff work and ensuring that managers know who to expect in the office each day.
Most online attendance software allows staff to clock in and out of their shifts using their phones, creating an automatic log of their start and finish times.
An easily accessible online rota for those visiting the office, meanwhile, ensures that workplaces never become overcrowded and that desks can be properly sanitised between uses.
5. Hold meetings online by default
It’s easy for members of your team to start to feel disadvantaged or be left out of key decisions if they alone aren’t coming into the office.
For this reason, as long as hybrid working is permitted at your company, all meetings (other than those when every participant is physically present in the office!) should be held online.
This will seem a little odd at first, especially if multiple team members are sitting in the exact same room, and you’ll need to invest in some good quality headphones and mics to reduce echo. Holding meetings online is essential, however, if you want to keep everyone in the loop and prevent home-working staff from feeling left behind.
6. Provide mental health training and support
When staff work from home, it becomes harder and harder to spot when they’re struggling with stress, anxiety, or suffering from burnout.
As well as scheduling regular one-to-one meetings with your team members to see how they’re getting on, it’s worth investing in mental health first aid training for your entire workforce.
As well as providing your staff with practical advice on how to take better care of their own mental health, mental health first aid training will teach them the signs to look out for should a member of their team need extra support. Best of all, this training can be done entirely online, making it ideal for both home-working and office-based staff.
Remote working can be wonderfully freeing for employees, but it can also be very lonely for those who are struggling with stress and anxiety. Reach out often, and encourage your staff to do the same.
7. Plan regular meet-ups and social events
When they’re not gathered in the same physical space five days a week, it’s easy for bonds between departments, and even within sub-teams, to weaken over time.
Keep your team talking and your company culture strong by scheduling regular meet-ups, both online and off, and organising social activities for your staff to take part in.
Park runs on the weekend; post-work drinks in a beer garden; online games nights and quizzes; it doesn’t really matter what you do so long as there are options available for everyone and you give people plenty of notice.
You may also want to schedule a few social events during work hours where possible so that staff with commitments outside work — or who perhaps might not want to give up their free time — are able to attend and mix with their coworkers.
Hybrid working comes with a whole host of benefits for employers and employees alike. An extension of flexible working, it allows staff to choose the environment they find most conducive to work, cuts down on expensive commutes, and can save businesses tens of thousands of pounds on rent and utility bills.
By the same token, however, hybrid working can present a number of challenges. Communication is key — both for establishing a hybrid working policy that works for everybody, and for keeping your company culture strong once it's rolled out.
Special care should also be taken to ensure that presenteeism doesn't become a problem at your workplace. Staff who choose to work mainly from home should never be made to feel left out or that their opportunities to progress within your company are fewer than for those who come in regularly.