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Hybrid working – a mix of remote and location based work – looks set to become the norm. Now’s a good time for employers to get ahead of the game
Hybrid working is the future. Luckily, we’re currently in a sweet spot for HR teams to consider that future.
It looks like it’ll be a while till lockdown is lifted and folk return to work in a way that resembles the before Covid times. But it’s also increasingly clear that there will be a return to work in some form once vaccination rates reach the right level.
So there’s space right now to think about what that future might look like. And hybrid working looks set to be a feature of many organisations’ approaches.
Hybrid working is the term for a combination of working from home and working in a specified location, likely an office. It’s a form of flexible working. It may be that employees have a lot of freedom over their hours when they are away from the office. Some might choose to start and finish early. Others will simply fit in work around other commitments, perhaps stopping at 3pm to collect the children from school and making up their hours in the evening after the kids are in bed.
Some firms might adopt a core hours approach where everyone is at work whether they are in the office or not between set hours, often 10-4. Other hours can be flexed as appropriate.
For some companies it’ll make sense to have set hours but much more flexibility around location. If there’s a decent wi-fi connection at your Cornish bolthole then you can start the week in your Birmingham office and finish it by the seaside.
Whatever the model there’s much for HR to consider.
For a start it’s worth considering hiring a hybrid working support officer. Or assigning the role to a particular member of the team. Each company ought to know the organisational model that works best for them. But often having one point of contact on an issue makes life more streamlined for everyone.
Managing hybrid working is already looking like a conundrum. How do you make sure you’ve got the right people together in the same place at the same time? There’s plenty of big brains pondering this already. Government is funding potential solutions such as Flexibly, a product that claims it’ll make managing hybrid working more straightforward. It’s worth looking into what products might work for you business now, before they are needed.
Many organisations will have employees set up with the right tech already. Certainly since last spring when so many people got sent home. But it’s still worth considering the hardware and software that will make hybrid working succeed.
Have employees got smartphones and laptops that are up to date and fit for purpose? Zoom and Microsoft Teams have come into their own in the last 12 months. But they still feel like a stop gap. New norms will evolve once virtual meetings are built into ‘normal’ working life so think about drawing up best practice guides now.
Lots of organisations have been using programmes to keep in touch, like Slack of MS Teams. These tools could be even more important once the workforce is hybrid working. Again, it’s a good time to look into which is best for you and your organisation and put together some best practice.
And crucially is your tech secure? If information needs to flow from an office or a work server to someone’s home computer on their own network (or worse, on a public network because they are working from the local library) how do you keep that secure? Hybrid working will fail if information security is compromised.
Creating a company culture might be trickier if some staff are working remotely and others are not. But it’s not impossible. Perhaps there ought to be a number of days a year when all staff are in the office. Perhaps events allowing everyone to get together are the answer. (Because, yes, eventually such things will be possible again.)
Hybrid working brings with a new set of issues for HR teams who’ve had to deal with unprecedented challenges this past year. But it looks like it’s going to be the future. There’s certainly appetite for it. And that’s the big draw. A firm that’s cracked hybrid working and gains a reputation for it will attract the best talent. And it’ll retain contented staff. Happy employees tend to do more and better work.
Using the time now to appoint a hybrid working support officer and empowering them consider the issues that need to be addressed could allow your company to get ahead of the game and claim a crucial advantage in the competitive economic times to come.