By Laura Knowles
Following the global pandemic of 2020 most employers have found themselves in a bit of a predicament now that things are returning to ‘normal’, and restrictions are reducing. Some employers are keen to get their teams back in face to face following a ‘slump’ in productivity, and others relish the prospect of losing those high office rental costs and the bills that go with it.
For employees, this new way of working has had both positive and negative impacts on their daily
lives. For working parents, a loss or reduction in those arduous rush hour commutes has meant they have had more time to do the school run and meet other parents, something that previously was never possible. For others, working from home has been a living nightmare; working in an environment that is not conducive to productivity, or the sheer lack of social interaction with
other humans has affected their mental health in a negative way.
Lots of employers are now looking at the so-called 'hybrid way of working' that incorporates a little of both home and office-based working. This model allows employers to reduce office space requirements, keeps necessary face to face meetings an option, and most importantly it allows employers to positively support employee’s wellbeing.
Through research and speaking to our clients at Second Chapter Ltd, we have put together our top tips for making a success of hybrid working.
1. Support Wellbeing
In general, it is found that employees work longer hours when home working, reportedly because they do not have their usual commute.
Taking breaks is something you should encourage your teams to do, and providing training on work-life balance would be beneficial (training we have organised got excellent feedback from participants).
Encourage colleagues to check in on each other, whether this be over MS Teams or Skype etc, the
technology allows you reach out to multiple colleagues at the stroke of a key.
This benefits employers as it boosts productivity twice - once through healthy employees who are physically and mentally capable of being more effective, and once through employee engagement as commitment improves when people feel their employer cares about their wellbeing.
In order to make the hybrid model work, you need to ensure everyone has access to the same
information regardless of whether they are working from home or in the office. Something we hear
a lot about is that homeworkers can feel ‘out of the loop’ and miss out on key information because
they are not present in the office. A solution might be to ensure all meetings that you plan to hold
face to face, also have the option for homeworkers to dial in and still be a part of the meeting even
from home. This is something that global companies do regularly when their teams are based all
over the world and still manage to collaborate effectively.
3. Help Build Workplace Relationships
One of the many reasons people have found working from home difficult is the lack of ‘office banter’ and those workplace relationships that we did not realise meant so much. Lots of employees spend on average more time with colleagues than family and friends. For many, working from home can be lonely if it is for a large proportion of your week. Employers can overcome this by ensuring they make good use of the time employees spend in the office. Make opportunities for teams to work collaboratively, deliberating and sharing knowledge face to face. Encouraging social interactions and informal get togethers would not go a miss either! These tips are particularly important for any new starters to help them feel part of the team.
4. Get Technical
Making sure you have the right technology to aid home working is paramount, and many employers
have likely put this in place now after almost 18 months of homeworking. However, we know some still do not have adequate home access and this can have a detrimental effect on productivity. Do not assume that everyone is using the technology you've deployed correctly or efficiently. Now the panic of moving to home working is over, why not encourage some refresher training on how best to use the platforms you have chosen, or conduct a survey to get feedback on what is causing issues?
Additionally, we have been hearing lots about ‘technology overload’, employees attending back-to-back Zoom calls and logging off late into the evening. Try to encourage teams to ensure they have a mixture of both face-to-face and virtual meetings where possible. Would a phone call be better than a video call? Also look at what meetings you are holding – we have all attended meetings where we have felt that the information could have been provided over email!
5. Show Commitment to Hybrid
Challenge bias and negative language towards hybrid working. There will be managers who would
prefer their teams were all back in the office, but if you intend to promote hybrid working as your
new strategy, make sure this is communicated from the top and filters down. Train your managers in the new ways of working and ensure they are clear on their responsibilities.
Think about eligibility criteria, are all roles eligible? Declaring which roles are not suitable at the ‘get go’ may reduce any issues going forward.
6. Offer a Trial Period
Think about having a trial period and ensure employees are aware that this is a learning experience for you as an employer as well as them as the employee. Avoid going in and making changes to everyone’s terms and conditions straight away just in case this approach does not work out. Monitor the progress throughout and adapt changes where necessary.
7. Address Skiving
There will undoubtedly be the odd person who skives off work because it’s easier to do so when you
are working alone. However, evidence suggests that on the whole, productivity does increase with
home-working. Make sure managers know how to manage individual situations of alleged ‘skiving’
effectively. Other team members might be aware of those who are not pulling their weight and feel resentment, so it's best to address this head on before the problem affects the wider team. It's also important to note that some people will admit that home working is not for them because they struggle to stay focused at home, and that is OK. Encouraging managers to open up
that dialogue is what is important.
There will undoubtedly be many bumps in the road whilst employers work out what works for them, encourage lots of feedback and be prepared to address any issues that arise early on. In the first instance following our 7 tips to making a success of hybrid working should get you started on the right foot, but feel free to get in touch if you would like more information on how to implement this in your organisation.
About Laura Knowles
Laura is currently HR Business Partner at Second Chapter where she advises clients on a range of HR matters including performance management, disciplinary and grievance, attendance management, flexible working, and employee engagement. With a HR career spanning more than a decade, she has worked for A4E, Cambion Electronics, BresMed Health Solutions and Kirklees Council. Laura lives in Sheffield with her husband, two daughters and their two cats.