Following major changes that have been brought about in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are now considering making the switch to a “hybrid” employment model. This term refers to a combination of remote and in-office working.
In some cases, this change comes on the heels of months of furlough or home-working, with management teams now attempting to determine the next step in a way that works best both for their business and their individual employees.
If you run a business and wish to move forward with an efficient hybrid working model, there are a few things you’ll need to consider before you can be sure of its success. In this article, we examine the key steps you’ll need to take.
Consider Your Reasons
It’s important to be able to clarify exactly why you have decided to move to hybrid – not just for your own benefit and for that of your management team, but also to enable you to effectively answer questions from employees and clients.
Your motives might include:
• Health and safety
• The capacity to downsize and save on overheads
• Greater flexibility and an improved work/life balance for staff
You should also carefully examine any potential downsides to making this change, such as:
• Communication challenges
• Issues with time management and quality of work
• A lack of suitable equipment
It’s a very good idea to put together a risk assessment regarding the switch to hybrid working. This will enable you to do your due diligence and pre-empt any teething problems.
Discuss With Staff
Major changes of this kind should only be made once your employees and any other affected parties fully understand, agree with and are able to facilitate them.
Before you make any final decisions regarding a move to hybrid working, it is important to notify everyone involved and hold discussions and feedback sessions on the subject. Doing so will enable affected individuals to raise issues, ask questions and make suggestions of their own.
For many, the ability to work from home allows for an improved work-life balance, a greater feeling of autonomy and improved morale that comes with the sense of being trusted to manage one’s own time.
However, others may find that a lack of structure or regulation takes a toll on their productivity and sense of self-discipline – and will therefore prefer to work in the office as much as possible.
Take into account any feedback you receive and work proactively with the parties involved to resolve any potential problems before moving forward.
If you are planning to re-introduce staff to the workplace after a long period of furlough or home-working, you need to consider their needs and preferences in terms of health and safety – including mental health.
Provide hand sanitiser stations and clear partitions where required and appropriate. Hold a frank discussion on mask wearing and distancing, and ensure that your company supports employees in their personal decisions regarding such matters – unless there is official guidance otherwise.
It’s also vital that you make sure that everyone is comfortable with your chosen proceedings, and that you have sufficient support in place to help staff in their transition to the new model, both practically and emotionally.
You must be patient and understanding of any concerns raised by your employees. Some may be experiencing issues at home regarding domestic violence, substance abuse, or other personal problems and challenges that could be exacerbated by prolonged periods working remotely.
“More employers are choosing to implement the balance between working from home and at the office more normalized, particularly for staff that have become more accustomed to working remotely and are, indeed, often more productive,” comments Ruban Selvanayagam of house auction.
If you come across matters of this kind, you must take great care to work with the employee in question until you can agree upon an arrangement with which they are comfortable.
Create a Rota
Your hybrid arrangement should be clearly set out and communicated to all employees. Try not to allow for too much wiggle-room, as you need to be able to provide the same treatment regarding flexibility and agency to each member of staff.
In the name of fairness, before finalising anything, consider how you might respond to any employee requesting a rota change (i.e. asking if they can work entirely from home one week, or requesting a number of home-working days that are different from those detailed on their rota).
Consider Workload Division
Introduce effective time and workload management by defining which tasks can be done at home and which need to be done in the office. These matters should be factored into your rota.
Decisions of this kind should be influenced by factors such as security risks, equipment provision, and any requirement for management intervention or interpersonal collaboration
Think About Space Management
How will your company’s use of space and services be affected by a move to hybrid working? Perhaps you could afford to move to smaller offices and save money. Maybe you don’t need the quantity of equipment you currently have in-house.
You might decide to employ a hot-desking or desk-sharing approach so that no workspace is left unused when certain members of staff are working remotely.
As long as these changes present no logistical issues, you may be able to streamline your amenities and provisions in a way that benefits your company both practically and financially.
Provide Equipment for Home Working
In order for your new model to be both functional and fair, you will need to ensure that proper equipment is provided for all employees who will be working at home or remotely for any length of time. No member of staff should have to pay for the basic tools they require to do their job.
It is vital that your business can provide all relevant parties with access to a sufficient internet connection, the right computer, suitable antivirus software, and any other job-specific items or tools that may be needed.
You may also need to make adjustments to in-house processes; converting to secure Cloud-based storage systems is usually a must, for example.
As briefly touched upon earlier, security is a key issue when it comes to hybrid working.
Any documents, programs, or other forms of electronic data that are to be shared or accessed remotely should be thoroughly and properly protected by cybersecurity software and a strong approach to access permissions.
Classified or confidential work or information should not be accessed at home or shared with any third parties, in order to avoid data theft, hacking or accidental loss.
Be sure to fully brief all staff members on this subject well in advance of making the switch.
Give Suitable Notice
If you do decide to move to a hybrid working model, it is vital that discussions regarding this change are held well in advance.
Employees will need the opportunity to make sufficient changes, acquire the necessary equipment, prepare their remote working space, and fully come to terms with all upcoming adjustments to their role prior to changes being made.
Be sure to answer any questions and provide all guidance required in plenty of time before your company’s transition.
Of course, every business is different. You may find that a switch to hybrid working poses too much of a challenge for your own company to be practical.
If this is the case, you and your management team should work to provide a safe and comfortable in-house environment for all employees.
However, if you decide to go ahead with the transition, it is vital that you consider the above matters, and any additional points that are specific to your company before you begin to make changes. Your staff, management team – and, as a result, your clients – will thank you for it.
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