After the events of the past year and a half, we’re all familiar with the term ‘hybrid working’ and its rise in popularity across the majority of businesses and sectors.
This way of working has been adopted by many, as it offers employees the flexibility to split their time between working remotely and in an office. At a time when many people remain apprehensive about returning to an office environment, hybrid working can smooth the transition – but not everyone is sold on the idea. We look at the pros and cons.
Attitudes to remote working
The pandemic has created a step-change in many employers’ attitudes to remote working and has resulted in millions of people working from home. Among the employers who took the Remote Work & Compensation Pulse Survey in May 2021, 51% support a hybrid work model. It is now such an accepted state of play that 'WFH' has become a widely recognised acronym, and there are reports that a majority of employees are less than keen to return to offices full time. According to research conducted by HR software company Personio, one in four employees in the UK said they would resign from their current job if they were forced to return to the office. Companies that can see a benefit in having an office presence are consequently having to consider a hybrid way of working – a recent BBC poll of 50 of the UK’s largest employers found that 43 firms plan to use a mixture of home- and remote working going forward, with employees encouraged to work from home two to three days a week.
Pros of hybrid working:
- A willingness to accommodate employees' changing expectations around flexible working is likely to prove a popular stance. This could help to attract and retain employees.
- It can be more inclusive for disabled employees or employees with caring responsibilities, as it offers flexibility and eliminates the need to travel.
- A reduced amount of commuting saves employees both time and money.
- It may lower an employer’s costs by reducing the amount of workspace needed – where hotdesking arrangements are used, for example.
Cons of hybrid working:
- It may not be practical where the majority of employees require a high level of supervision, or where they have regular face-to-face client or customer contact.
- It can make it harder to know when employees are struggling with workloads and in need of support.
- Reduced face-to-face interaction can make it harder to engage employees.
Things to consider
A hybrid working model will not suit every employer or workplace. Employers who are considering introducing a hybrid working model will need to give careful consideration to whether this way of working is suitable for their workforce and, if so, carefully consider how they will implement it.
For a start, employers need a proper policy. This should set out who is eligible for hybrid working and how often employees are required to attend the workplace. This could either be a fluid arrangement (e.g. employees attend the workplace a minimum number of days per week, but with greater attendance when required), or specify a set workplace-to-remote-working ratio. The policy should also set out any equipment or resources that will be offered to employees when they are working remotely, along with any other arrangements.
Employers must consult with their employees about any proposed change to work patterns or location. If a decision is made to introduce hybrid working or to continue homeworking, any existing relevant policies and procedures will need to be updated. Hybrid working may amount to a formal change to terms and conditions of employment where, for example, it involves a change of location or change of hours.
If hybrid working has been requested by an employee, the employer can simply confirm in writing any change in the terms and conditions of employment. The employee should sign and return the letter to confirm their agreement to the contractual change. Where a change to terms and conditions of employment is initiated by an employer, a more formal consultation process will need to take place before a final decision is made.