As we begin our slow emergence from COVID-19, businesses across the UK are reporting the same thing: staff are reluctant to return to the office. In fact, recent studies have shown that 55% of employees would prefer to work from home at least three days a week.
Their reluctance is easy to understand. From the perspective of 2021, visiting the office might provide an exciting variation in the daily routine, but commuting? That’s just a waste of time!
Employers probably won’t share such feelings, of course, but they do want to retain their employees. As a result, many of them are opting for hybrid work models.
‘Hybrid working’ is a recently-coined term for work patterns that combine office and home working. Enthusiasts say that adopting such a model will help your team to balance their work responsibilities with their personal lives. The flexibility that empowers them to concentrate fully on their own concerns will translate into improved focus and attentiveness when they’re working.
It’s a tempting prospect. Make the right arrangements, and your staff will be able to maintain close office relationships and participate in pizza-fuelled, whole-team brainstorms at the office while also enjoying distraction-free, commute-free workdays at home.
By the book…
So, you’re sold on hybrid working. How will you, as an employer, go about making it happen?
If you’re doing it by the book, you might choose to implement the provisions of the Flexible Working Regulations (2014), a piece of legislation which is generally reckoned to be long on principle and short on practicality.
The approach it enshrines involves asking the affected employees to make a formal request for hybrid working, to which you’re then obligated to respond within three months. You can redraft the employee’s work contract directly, or agree a trial period to test how the proposed arrangement works in practice. (The legislation also lists various ‘statutory reasons’ which would be acceptable excuses for rejecting a given request…but we’ll assume that you want to play ball!)
The problem with this approach is that it was designed to deal with one case at a time. Using the 2014 legislation as a framework for dealing with a department or even an entire company may prove to be something of a challenge…
The off-the-cuff option is to introduce hybrid working via an informal, collectively-organised rollout. This approach will need a clear vision of where you want to get to, a willingness to negotiate en route, and a proactive HR department. (LeavePlanner software won’t hurt, either.)
Your first step towards hybrid working might be that employees will only be expected to attend the office, say, three days a week.
Which three days? Well, you can encourage managers and teams to choose working days for themselves. The result will be something of a ‘free-for-all’, but all parties will get at least a part of what they wanted.
If you can’t face all the bargaining, you might choose instead to open the office Tuesday to Thursday. (You can say it’s an energy saving measure.)
From an HR perspective, this approach has two particular advantages – it obviates any need to redraft contracts, and it promotes team thinking. And, no matter how complex the negotiations get, you’ll find that LeavePlanner software is a huge help in ensuring cover and maintaining staffing levels.
Hybrid working delivers tangible benefits to organisations and their employees. Switching to such a model will show your employees that you’re serious about their wellbeing.