Thinking about a hybrid workplace? Five things you should know before you make the shift

by Alan Hickey, Service and Operations Director at Peninsula

According to the Second Annual National Remote Working Survey, over 95% of workers now favour some form of remote working, with fewer than 5% wanting a full-time return to the office. This survey shows that participants preferred working from the office and home, creating a “hybrid” working arrangement that could soon take the spotlight from traditional working norms. Before making the shift to hybrid working, here are five things employers need to think about.

  1. Policies 

A hybrid working arrangement may not already be covered under existing policies, so you will need to actively think about how this arrangement will impact the effectiveness of existing policies. This new type of working arrangement will likely require the development of a new policy and the revision of existing policies. A transition to more hybrid working could impact a range of policies from disciplinary and grievance to IT and employee monitoring.

  1. Contracts

Where existing staff are concerned, it may be difficult to change their employment contracts without their agreement – depending on what the contracts state about variation. It is crucial that you check staff contracts before confirming any hybrid working arrangements. A unilateral change to a contract by an employer could lead to a breach of contract claim. For new hires, hybrid working can be incorporated into their contracts, if necessary, from the start of their employment.

  1. Wellbeing

Employers have a duty of care to protect the health and wellbeing of staff. As part of this obligation, employers must ensure that the working environment is safe while staff are in the workplace, whether that’s an office or a home workstation. Hybrid staff should enjoy the same level of health and safety precautions as staff who are fully situated in the workplace. After a challenging year, it’s also essential to ensure that all staff receive support for any mental health issues they may be facing. This support should be accessible both in the workplace and at home.

  1. Managing teams

It is vital to maintain communication with hybrid staff while they are working from home. This can be achieved by holding regular weekly/daily meetings with them either in person or remotely. Most importantly, to determine the arrangement’s effectiveness, staff should be given clear targets to work towards, which can be evaluated during these regular meetings. 

  1. Training and development 

Staff and managers should be well-equipped to transition to hybrid working and know what to expect from it. Training is also crucial to promote the successful delivery of their roles from two (or multiple) locations.

Parting note

While there is no legal obligation on employers to provide staff with hybrid working options, the Department of Trade, Enterprise and Employment recently held a public consultation that will inform the introduction of a legal right of employees to request remote work, which is scheduled to come into force later this year. Similarly, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth is seeking the public’s views on how flexible work arrangements could help support work-life balance and develop a more inclusive labour market. After what has effectively been a large scale trial in remote working over the past year, employers will need to engage with this issue over the coming year as both the Government and workers increasingly favour remote and flexible working options. Businesses that want to provide remote work options should ensure that appropriate mechanisms are in place to safeguard operations, productivity and employee health and welfare.

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