What is Hybrid working?
Hybrid working is a relatively new term that includes a balance of working from the office/workplace and at home. Staff attend the workplace for part of their working week and work from home, or elsewhere, remotely for the rest of the time.
Before committing to the hybrid working model, it is good practice to run a trial period. A trial period provides the opportunity to identify any issues and assess whether individual employees, roles or teams are suited to this new way of working. What is the best way for employers to determine how to operate an effective hybrid working trial period?
Consider if hybrid working model is appropriate for your business
Running a trial period is a pointless exercise if the hybrid working model is not suitable for the type of work that the organisation does, or if the staff, line managers and senior leaders have no interest in hybrid working.
Before commencing the hybrid working model on a trial basis, it is important to do some preparatory work;
- giving initial consideration to whether the hybrid working model is actually suitable in the long term, from a practical, business and cultural point of view;
- liaising with your senior management to ensure that, from the start, there is buy-in;
- assessing which roles could be suitable for hybrid working; and
- start to gather the views of the employees on their interest for moving to the hybrid working model.
Communicate to staff
Announce hybrid working trial period to the workforce providing the details of the trial period. This can be set out in a communication to the workforce, which should come from a senior leader within the organisation (such as the CEO). The communication explains the setting out your organisation’s plans to explore potential move to hybrid working model will give you a strong indication as to the general consensus of whether or not hybrid working is of interest. The communication needs to include:
- the rationale for running a hybrid working trial period;
- the hybrid working arrangements that are being put in place during the trial period;
- guidelines on hybrid working, in particular a clear indication of the expected split between workplace attendance and working remotely;
- the time period of the hybrid working trial period, with a start and end date;
- the timeframe for reviewing the hybrid working arrangements (for example a monthly review or review at the midpoint of the trial period);
- how the employees can provide feedback and flag up issues; and
- how any changes to the hybrid working arrangements will take effect, including how adjustments will be made during the trial period.
Create a Hybrid working policy
It is crucial to set out the ground rules in advance, which could be via a draft hybrid working policy that is subject to change during the trial period. This gives the workforce an idea in advance of what their working arrangements will look like during the trial period and potentially moving forward.
It is fundamental to consider the feedback of the employees during trial period. Conduct a survey, obtain feedback! This includes not only hybrid workers, but also anyone else who may possibly be affected by the move to the hybrid working model. It is important that employers gather feedback from all staff, including those indirectly affected by this new way of working. encouraging ongoing feedback should be encouraged to gain a full overview of the process as it continues.
Employers should be prepared to adapt during the trial period for any unforeseen issues that may arise and ensure they are addressed; being prepared to make changes to your hybrid working arrangements and allowing the trial period to continue smoothly. Possible changes that may be required are:
- adjustments to the anticipated split between the time employees attend the workplace and work remotely, if it emerges during the trial period that less or more time than originally thought attending the workplace is necessary;
- reassessment of any roles that the employer has decided are unsuitable for hybrid working;
- any additional COVID-19 safe working measures that it has been necessary to put in place for employees to attend the workplace;
- any additions or adaptations to technology and equipment that is being provided to help employees to work remotely; and
- any adjustments to hotdesking arrangements when employees are attending the workplace.
The employer can update and redistribute its draft hybrid working policy to reflect these amended arrangements throughout the trial period.
Decide and communicate outcome of trial period and communicate to the workforce. This should come from a senior leader within the organisation (such as the CEO).
Introducing Hybrid working on a permanent basis
If the trial has been a success, the communication can confirm that the organisation is moving permanently to this new way of working. The communication can outline the findings from the trial period and set out the next steps, including the timetable for the permanent move and what formalities will have to be completed (such as any changes to contracts of employment).
Employers can finalise its hybrid working policy and distribute it to staff to confirm its guidelines on this new way of working.
If the employer concludes from the trial period that the hybrid working model is not suitable in the long term, time can be taken to rethink its plans before committing to adopting the model. Employers will have to evidence to back up this decision, which should be communicated clearly to the workforce.
Employers will be required to formalise the new hybrid working arrangements, only once they are confident that its arrangements work in practice and contractual changes can be agreed that it is implementing to make the move to the hybrid working model permanent.
To provide a sense of certainty, some employers will want to amend place of work clauses in the workforce’s contracts of employment, getting employees’ written agreement to the variation.
Others may seek to introduce the hybrid working model without amending contracts, by making the move to hybrid working discretionary. The advantage of this approach is that the employer retains flexibility to change the arrangements in the future. However, the risk with this approach is that the contractual arrangement should reflect what is happening in reality – if the employee consistently works remotely on some days, this may become an implied term of their contract. If you are considering introducing hybrid working or updating employee’s terms to reflect a new work location, please get in touch for further advice and guidance.