Perk up: Why having a hybrid work policy is so important and how SMEs can get involved

Just 5.1% of companies offer remote working as an employee perk, despite its rise in popularity as the ‘new way of working’. So how can you introduce it to your office?

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From wellbeing to WFH, the past two years have introduced a glossary of new terms to businesses. But none have been as big a hit with employees as the idea of hybrid working.

Research from serviced-office provider, IWG shows that hybrid working – combining home and office working for added flexibility – is beginning to gain parity with salary, pension and holiday for job seekers.

88% of workers said hybrid working was an important factor for a new job this year. Notably, unlimited holiday and extended parental leave each scored almost 10% lower.

But while the ability to choose where to work is popular with employees, some firms – particularly those carrying out physical labour – remain uncertain about how to introduce the perk and navigate the challenges associated.

The below guide will teach you how to design a hybrid working policy, identifying the biggest opportunities and threats, to ultimately improve staff satisfaction.

Why is having a hybrid working policy important?

Our guide to hybrid working outlines the policy as a good compromise for workers, who can reap the benefits of a social and collaborative office culture whilst having time to focus on their personal life.

Keeping your workforce happy and motivated is beneficial to businesses for obvious reasons – but it’s particularly auspicious during the current talent shortage, which has made hiring more difficult to multiple industries.

Competition is increasing for attracting new hires, meaning the power is very much in job seekers’ hands.

In order to convince employees to sign up with your firm you’ll need to introduce smart incentives. As IWG’s research shows, hybrid working would likely be one of the most persuasive.

What should a hybrid working policy look like?

Earlier this year, we reported that, in a survey of 1,000 business owners, 45% of respondents planned to implement a hybrid working policy over the next 12 months.

But while most people know what the term ‘hybrid working’ means, few are aware of what it takes to introduce one into a remote or office-based team.

In fact, data from Indeed, the world’s largest job site, shows that year-on-year searches for the term ‘hybrid’ have increased by an astonishing 6,531% in the twelve months up to the end of April.

That makes it one of the fastest growing search terms on their UK website – and clearly a subject that people are curious about.

Below, we’ll go through five key areas to consider when designing an effective solution to hybrid working:

1. Current attitudes

At its heart, a hybrid working policy is all about flexibility. Yet, six months after COVID-19 restrictions were officially lifted in the UK, many managers have yet to review or update their hybrid model since the lockdown first began.

Your current workforce might be entirely against hybrid working. They might prefer coming into the office or being based entirely remotely.

That’s why it’s best to start implementing a hybrid working arrangement by first understanding their current attitudes.

Issue a survey to your staff members. Use this to gather information about your current model of working and what they might like to see change.

Still, we recommend you think about preparing a hybrid work policy regardless of the results.

Even if your results show your staff are against hybrid working, you might hire a new worker in three months time for whom it’s an absolute necessity.

2. Impact on inclusion

Digital inequality was another big topic uncovered during the pandemic. While reliance on technology developed, peoples’ personal technology budgets did not.

Those with slower broadband access or outdated hardware were not able to be as productive or perform as well as they would have liked, leading to an unequal playing field in terms of career development.

Offering home office equipment is a way to minimise this risk. Make sure you include the costs within your financial planning.

It’s also important to implement an induction process for hybrid workers. Keep them assimilated with company culture and values, and host remote events to ensure they can curate strong working relationships with other hybrid team members.

Our guide to how to keep remote employees engaged has more handy strategies to help shape your business’s hybrid policy.

3. Performance and management

Naturally, if your team is working remotely on certain days, you’ll find it more difficult to monitor their efficiency on tasks.

Instead of observing staff, managers will need to adjust to assessing performance through outcomes, contribution and value.

Making this change generates a number of questions. Chiefly, whether your managers have the right equipment to manage performance in this way.

Review your current mechanisms for performance evaluation. How regular are your catchup meetings? How might you address poor hybrid working?

Similarly, you’ll need to consider the impact on reward strategies. Recognition of outstanding work needs to be fair and not biased towards those spending more time in the office.

4. Contractual differences

Any formal policy change at a company has legal implications for an employee contract. Conversely, hybrid working can also be undertaken on an informal basis without any amendments to contracts.

It’s the employees job to ensure that staff and managers understand the differences and the implications of both.

For example, if you choose to introduce hybrid-working informally, employees need to be aware that the privilege can be withdrawn at any time.

There may also be tax implications if an employee wishes to work some of their remote time outside of the UK. Discussing this further with a legal expert is a good way to cover all bases.

5. Communication channels

Communication is both an enabler for hybrid working success and a potential risk area if it’s not conducted correctly.

Poor communication affects how involved an employee feels in the office, their training and development, and the simple sharing of information between teams.

We would recommend you consider hosting all of your meetings online outright to combat the above threats. This will ensure each employee has the same experience of a meeting and is just as able to share their thoughts.

Our guide to video conferencing technology will give you more detail on the tools needed to make this work.

Encourage your teams to decide on their own approach to communication, such as how often to meet physically. ‘Team days’ in the office have become a popular fix for this.

That being said, it is important for companies to not overuse video conferencing technology, to avoid staff members feeling ‘Zoomed out’.

Chat-based messaging apps like Slack or Bitrix24 can help to improve team working without contributing to unnecessary meeting time. We’ve reviewed the top collaboration software for small businesses for more information.

What if my business requires manual labour?

Team of warehouse workers with touchpad making revision of goods

Prior to the pandemic, flexible working was still considered a relatively innovative policy in the UK.

However, the COVID-19 necessitated the quick adoption of new technologies – like Microsoft Teams and Zoom – meaning roles which previously may have been considered as unsuitable for flexible or homeworking have since successfully crossed the hearth.

If your business employs ‘in-person’ jobs like warehouse managers or lab technicians, hybrid working could actually provide the perfect opportunity to give staff remote-working privileges without compromising on productivity.

Examine role requirements

Loading gangs, drivers, warehouse workers, cleaners and maintenance crews are examples of employees who need to be on site.

Where it might not be possible to implement a company-wide approach, consider introducing several different forms of hybrid working.

This is another area where technology will come in handy. Small business project management software can automate many of the in-person tasks conducted by HR representatives or site managers.

For example, use the Wrike platform to access cloud-based time tracking. Being able to view employee hours remotely allows project managers to know who is working on-site during work hours and see all the time logs in progress.

Consider outsourcing IT

Most physically-based companies already conducted an assessment into the number of warehouse workers required on the floor at any time.

Tech savvy organisations might invest in a centralised IT staff who have remote visibility into assets that were previously managed onsite.

They can access, diagnose and fix things like computers, scanners and printers entirely remotely, significantly reducing the number of required team members on location.

Allocate admin tasks to specific home-working days

Say you’re a business wholesaler that needs to conduct a mix of tasks. Some, such as filing invoices, are administrative and computer-based. Others, like overseeing deliveries, require you to be present in the depot.

You might choose to group these tasks together to facilitate a “work where it works system”, designed to encourage staff to select the best location to do their job in a day.

ASDA took this approach during the pandemic. Its staff could choose to work from home, the head office, a store, or the depot depending on what tasks they need to complete each day.

Transparency is an important element for this approach. You need to have confidence in your staff that they can be left to their own devices – close communication between worker and manager is a must.

Conclusion

Hybrid working is currently one of the most sought-after employee perks – and its cultural impact means it will likely remain high up the job seekers’ agenda for the foreseeable future.

It’s easy to focus on the positives that hybrid working will bring to your office, such as market competitiveness and increased employee satisfaction.

But just as important is proper planning and preparation to ensure that you’re not sprinting towards a solution that instead requires a careful, measured approach.

Only by first considering the potential blockers – such as communication challenges and contractual requirements – can you unlock the many benefits that a hybrid approach has to offer.

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Helena Young
Helena Young Senior Writer

Helena "Len" Young is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has also previously written for a popular fintech startup.

Included in her topics of interest and expertise are tax legislation, the levelling up agenda, and organisational software including CRM and project management systems. As well as this, she is a big fan of the films of Peter Jackson.

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