What is hybrid working?
Hybrid working is where staff conduct a mixture of working from home and from the office. Whilst it is not a new concept, as the option to work from home through flexible working existed prior to the pandemic, it is something that has become much more popular in recent times. Staff that have successfully worked from home during the last 12 months may want to continue doing so going forward and respond poorly to a full-time return to the workplace. Hybrid working could therefore be a compromise for this, permitting staff to work from home whilst also maintaining a degree of office attendance.
Companies will likely be used to homeworking by now, meaning the logistics, such as giving staff the equipment with which to do this, will be at least partly familiar to them. However, facilitating the equipment for staff to work from home, and the office, may be more complicated and plans should be made for this. Fundamentally, employees should be able to smoothly transition from the office to home and back again with minimal issues.
This may prove more challenging than organisations initially think it will and they should prepare for this. For example, it may be that they agree to the hybrid working arrangement being subject to a trial period first. In this way, if the organisation feels that the arrangement is not sustainable long-term, they have more of an option to discontinue it.
Changing contractual terms
Organisations should be aware that the implementation of hybrid working will result in a change to the terms and conditions of staff and that they will therefore need to agree to this. Some staff may seek to ask for this through a flexible working request, which they will be eligible to make if they have worked for the company for at least 26 weeks and have not made a similar request in the last 12 months. Either way, this change will be considered a permanent one, unless it is clearly stated that there will be a trial period first as mentioned above.
It should be clearly outlined how the arrangement is going to work. For example, will there be set days from home and in the office, or will it be decided in a similar way to shift patterns? Organisations are free to try and structure this as they see fit, but they should obviously bear in mind how this will be accepted by employees.
If an organisation seeks to enforce this company-wide, they should proceed carefully. Some members of staff may not want the hybrid working option, for example. To this end, it is advisable to engage in conversations with the workforce before seeking to put this in place if possible. It may be that not all members of staff need to work under this arrangement.
As with usual homeworking arrangements, it is important that regular contact is still maintained with staff regardless of whether they are working from home or in the office. This could be done through virtual meetings, such as by the use of teams. Staff should also be reminded of the behaviours expected of them at home, such as health and safety requirements and usual conduct policies, and the consequences for breaching these. Face-to-face meetings and training could also be scheduled for the days in which the employee is in the office.