The move to hybrid working has caught many HR professionals off-guard.
After spending the better part of two years mostly working from home, there’s a sense of quiet panic starting to descend in many HR departments. Senior management teams are beginning to request that departments prepare policies for getting bums back on seats in the office.
The vast majority of organisations recognise the huge popularity of remote work on the part of their employees and the increased productivity and better work life balance that it can bring. As a result, they’re not planning to throw the proverbial remote-work-baby out with the bathwater just yet.
Instead, organisations are looking to combine the flexibility of remote work with the structure of physical work. And they’re turning to hybrid working – a combination of working remotely and in an office – to do that.
In this article, we explore how you, as a HR professional, can craft an effective hybrid working policy that can streamline and formalise the move to hybrid working in your company.
Why Hybrid Working? And Why Does It Need a Policy?
Although there’s no legal requirement for employers to offer hybrid working, not doing so is likely to have a negative impact on your organisation in a number of ways.
As we emerge from the worst of the pandemic, it’s clear that a lot of us have fundamentally changed the way that we think about work and the role that it plays in our lives. The world of work has been rearranged around remote working, and this is likely to have long-term consequences for the way that the world works.
The pandemic has turned out to be a powerful catalyst for changing long-held ideas, putting into perspective the ways that office-based work (and everything that goes along with it) can often have a negative impact on our mental health.
For many people, remote work gave them a new-found sense of autonomy, dignity and balance, without compromising their productivity. Many employees are even leaving their current roles as we return to the office, in search of positions that offer remote-work, better flexibility and improved work/life balance (a phenomenon that’s been dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’).
There’s another reason why hybrid working is likely to be the new normal going forward: COVID-19’s inherent unpredictability.
The virus is always evolving and a new variant could be just around the corner. If so, it’s likely that restrictions will be brought back in and companies will need to reduce the amount of time their staff spend together in offices. Cue organisational mayhem and lost productivity when businesses attempt to switch back to remote work at a moment’s notice.
Hybrid working represents a blend of the best elements of in-office working and remote working, improving everything from pandemic readiness through to employee engagement and mental health. But to implement it correctly, you’ll need a dedicated hybrid working policy.
What is a Hybrid Working Policy?
To put it simply, a hybrid working policy is a document that summarises how hybrid working works within your organisation.
It’s used in the same way that any other policy in your workplace is – to inform the ground rules of a particular process and how it should be implemented and managed.
It’s usually organised into sections, each covering a different aspect of hybrid working at your organisation.
The nature of remote work at the start of the pandemic meant that employers had to surrender some of their control over how employees did their jobs. Many managers found that they had to allow their employees more autonomy, and the freedom and initiative to manage themselves to some degree.
As a result, there’s likely to be disquiet if employers try to grab back too much rigid control.
A simple solution is to allow employees to keep the same level of freedom that they had when working from home previously, but to codify it in a policy document where you outline the expectations that come along with these new privileges.
This approach satisfies the needs of employees (who numerous studies have shown still want to work from home) with the needs of employers (who are painfully eyeing up the rental cost of offices that are currently empty), helping to defuse any tension about returning to the office.
What does a Hybrid Working Policy cover?
A hybrid working policy should cover:
- Working arrangements
- Health and safety
- Data protection
How to create a hybrid working policy
Here are the basic components that make up a hybrid working strategy and what each section in it should do.
This section is a brief summary of what your hybrid working policy is intended to do and who it covers. It essentially outlines the scope of the policy itself.
2. Working arrangements
The most important thing that a hybrid working policy needs to do is outline how exactly your organisation plans to implement hybrid working. In other words, working arrangements: what do you imagine hybrid working to look like in your organisation?
Your policy should set out this out clearly. The working arrangements section should cover the practical, logistical elements of hybrid working like:
- How many days per week/month employees will work from the office, and how many at home
- Which departments/teams will work from the office on which days
- Where employees will work within the office
- Any changes to shift patterns, as a consequence of the move to hybrid working
Both employees and employers need to be fully aware of the communication expectations that are placed on them when it comes to hybrid working. This will help to reduce the risk of those hiccups that can happen when you’re switching from workplace to workplace constantly and when teams are separated.
An effective hybrid working policy will clearly outline the expectations that you have of your employees when it comes to remote work.
It will provide answers to questions like:
- When working from home, what hours do you expect your employees to be contactable between?
- What platforms will your employees use to communicate whilst working from home?
- Where do you expect your employees to work whilst in the office (e.g. will there be fixed desks for employees, or will there be hot-desking?)
- How can employees expect to be managed whilst working from home?
- How will time worked be monitored?
- How will absences be reported?