Strategy on implementing successful hybrid working
Over the last 3 days we have examined various aspects of hybrid working, including its pros and cons, encouraging people back into the office, and the intergenerational challenges which hybrid working brings. Today we look at strategies for successfully implementing a system of hybrid working – the “how”, rather than the “what” of the office place dynamic.
In recent years the balance of power has arguably shifted between employers and employees. Pre-pandemic, management of working hours and location rested firmly with employers. Employees were generally expected to be in the office during fixed working hours. Fast forward 2 years later and employees have much greater control over their working day. As we have discussed throughout the week, to retain employees in a post-pandemic world allowing them control and trust is key.
"Ultimately, it’s about employers trusting their people to work wherever and whenever – within reason – they work best”.
With record shortages in the labour market it now seems to be employees who are in the driving seat with regard to what they are prepared to accept and hybrid working is a fundamental part of this. As of May 2022, 24% of all workers operated on a hybrid working basis (Office of National Statistics). One of the ways in which an employer can make themselves more attractive to potential candidates (as well as improve their retention) is to establish a successful model for hybrid working.
Our recent report on the changing dimensions of the workplace highlighted 6 rules to apply when building a successful hybrid model; these are:
1. Acknowledge that you do not always know everything – no one has all the answers, at least not straight away.
2. Have an experimental mindset – try and try again until you find something that sticks! Often things do not work immediately, so be prepared for some innovations to fail. Take the positive experiences from this and keep trying to find what works best for your business.
3. Consider the fundamental question – what is the office for? We have touched on this throughout the week (Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3). We have found that employees choose to attend the office primarily for community and collaboration, therefore the function of the office should foster this.
4. Expanding on rule 3, think about if, and how, spaces need to be adapted suit your hybrid working model. If employees are attending the office part time, it may be more effective to reduce desks and increase collaborative working space.
5. Think about flexibility both in terms of space and time. Some employees may not be able to wok from home but should not be deprived of the same flexibility and trust from their employer. Consider flexibility in hours and have a go at “time bartering”. The ability to Time Flex can help attract the skill sets you need because it may work for people who otherwise would struggle to work a strict office 9 to 5 schedule. It allows employees to work effectively around their home life, whether that be in the office or not.
6. Involve your employees in planning at an early stage – if they feel involved, they will be far more likely to buy into the type of hybrid model that best works for you as an employer.
So how does all this translate into practice?
Typically, most problems with implementing hybrid working arise when the model is ambiguous, uncertain or one-sided. A hybrid working model needs to work for both the employer and employee and be clear enough that both parties understand where the boundaries lie. Ideally employers will develop their hybrid working model in consultation with their employees so that both parties are on the same page with what they want to achieve.
In practice this will generally fall on the HR team to implement. There will invariably be differences between professions and one-size will not fit all. However, what is universal is the need for communication between employers and employees and an understanding of the objectives that both parties are trying to achieve from hybrid working. For instance, if staff in a particular team want the flexibility of working remotely, they need to give their line managers the assurance that they will be productive and can manage their own workloads remotely. Likewise, managers need to reassure staff that they can carry out effective supervision remotely and when people are in the office, they make sure they schedule regular one-to-one and team meetings to reinforce communication and keep the connectivity going.
If employers can clearly delineate what they expect from staff who are working part from home and part in the office in terms of standards of behaviour, dress codes, and regularity of attendance, employees will have parameters within which they need to operate. It will also reinforce that as long as they keep within these parameters and get the job done, the flexibility they crave will be afforded to them.
Ultimately trust goes both ways. Employers need to be able to trust that their staff will get the job done and their staff want the trust afforded to them to do so flexibly on their own terms. To facilitate this effectively, communication is key. Keep in touch with your staff. If you keep communication channels open, the most effective hybrid working model will form itself naturally.
In our final post, tomorrow, we will examine the feedback we have received throughout the week and consider the future for hybrid working – including working abroad and from the local pub!