Of the many changes thrust upon us by the pandemic, changes to the world of work have been some of the most dramatic. As businesses and their employees were forced to adapt to home working, and many companies realised that it actually worked for them, it raised an important question: Would full-time working in the office environment become a thing of the past?
As we slowly return to some kind of normal, some businesses have settled on hybrid working with employees coming into the office for a few days per week then spending the rest of the time working remotely.
Though it would seem that hybrid working is a good compromise, the debate about how well it could work for businesses and employees is definitely alive and kicking. There’s the joy at the lack of a long commute to work every day versus not getting to interact with colleagues in person. There’s the novelty of more flexibility versus a lack of separation between work and life when people work remotely. Hybrid working is a big change, and change is often resisted. The question is, could a change to hybrid working really work for you and your employees?
Here’s what to consider if you’re thinking of trying out hybrid working and how you can make it work for your SME.
Should you consider hybrid working?
As you think about bringing employees back into the workplace, are you getting an increasing number of requests for flexible working? Are your employees telling you that they feel anxious about coming back to the office full-time, despite Covid-safe measures? Are some people telling you that they miss the office but feel that they managed to be more productive when they didn’t have to commute every day?
Hybrid working may be a good compromise. When done right, hybrid working can:
- Make people more productive;
- Encourage loyalty because employees feel their preferences and wellbeing are being considered;
- Improve trust and relationships in the workplace.
Listen to employees and consider how hybrid working might work
Before you make any decision on hybrid working, you need to consult your employees as soon as you can. You also need to think about where, when, and how work can be done.
Where?– are there certain tasks that need to be done in the workplace or could they be done from home with the right technology, communication, and health and safety processes in place?
When?– is there an expectation that work should be done at a certain time? For example, are there core hours where your team needs to work together? Are there set meeting times with any clients or stakeholders? How will you manage working hours and rest breaks if employees are working remotely?
How? – how will you ensure a smooth transition to hybrid working and make sure that:
- Things are kept secure?
- New employees still have a good experience when they come on board?
- Health and safety obligations are met, like risk assessments?
- How will your team communicate and collaborate with each other?
- You are still able to support and manage your team including looking after their wellbeing, managing performance, and offering them training to prepare for any changes?
Consider what your employees need
If you want to make hybrid working work for your SME, you have to think about what your employees need and want. This is why talking to your people is so important. For example, if you have a disabled employee, you might assume that they would prefer to work from home full-time and avoid a long commute. This may be true, but they also might struggle with the loss of social interaction that the workplace provides.
Making a decision about hybrid working
Once you’ve thought about how hybrid working could work for your SME, it’s time to make a decision about whether you’re going to introduce it.
If you decide that you want to try it, you should consult with your employees first. This is important for a few reasons.
First, it improves trust and if employees are involved in decision-making, it makes them feel valued and that their opinions are considered.
Secondly, it can help you spot any potential problems early on. If you listen to concerns and opinions on what would and wouldn’t work for the business, it can help you to make better decisions and do hybrid working right.
The hybrid working consultation
When you consult with employees about hybrid working, you should:
- Communicate clearly what the changes you’re considering are, and why you are considering them;
- Ask employees to share any ideas, opinions, or concerns;
- Try to resolve concerns wherever you can.
Hybrid working-employee contracts and creating a policy
If you and your employees have agreed to give hybrid working a go, you’ll need to:
Check your employees’ contracts
Do you need to change anything in preparation for introducing hybrid working? For example, if their contract specifies a work location, you’ll have to change that to reflect that now you can decide where they work. If it already says that you can decide where they work depending on business needs, you probably won’t need to change it. Either way, draft up a letter or email for employees, formally stating what changes have been agreed upon.
Create a hybrid working policy
What your SME hybrid working policy needs to include
In a nutshell, your hybrid working policy should outline how hybrid working will work in your SME. Like your other policies, it should be a living document that is reviewed and updated regularly.
The policy should include:
- How work equipment will be set up when employees are working remotely, and how everything will be kept secure;
- Details of risk assessments of employees’ home workspaces;
- Information on support that is available for employees who are working remotely;
- Details of insurances required;
- Information on how you as a manager will continue to support and manage staff when the new working arrangement has been introduced in terms of:
Health, safety, and wellbeing (including mental health)
How performance will be managed;
Providing training that will help smooth the transition to hybrid working examples could include extra training on the software you’ll be using or training for line managers on how to manage remote teams;
- Specifics on what type of roles are suitable for hybrid working;
- When, where, and how work will be done.
A word on employee mental health
After more than a year of stress and strain, many people’s mental health has suffered. For some people, hybrid working will be a welcome change, but for some, working remotely has been, and will continue to be a struggle. This is why doing whatever you can to support employees, monitor their mental health, and reduce any stress around the transition to hybrid working is crucial.
You can do this by:
- Making sure that your team knows exactly what hybrid working will involve and there are no unpleasant surprises;
- Having regular contact with individual team members to see how they are getting on ( NB- not micromanaging!)
- Reminding employees about any support that is available and how they can get help if they are struggling with their mental health;
- Providing them with points of contact in case they have any issues while working remotely, such as IT problems for example.
Still unsure about hybrid working for your SME?
While it’s true that many businesses see the value of hybrid working, you might still be unsure about whether it’s the right choice for your SME. The good news is, there are other options if you don’t want to go all in.
You could pilot hybrid working
Why not try hybrid working for 3-6 months and see how it works? This will give you the chance to see whether it meets the needs of your business and your employees.
You could think about alternatives to hybrid working
Hybrid working might simply not be possible for certain types of job roles, but if those employees are asking for more flexibility, why not consider different working patterns or full-time remote working?
Are you going with hybrid working?
My top tips for a smooth transition
Ease it in
While we didn’t have much time to prepare or plan for remote working earlier on in the pandemic, a transition to hybrid working should be meticulously planned and clearly communicated.
Be the leader everyone needs
If half of your team are working in the office and the other half are at home, you’ll have to dig deep and be the leader that keeps everyone engaged and included. Think about how you’ll do that.
Accept that you can’t please everyone
When you’re deciding about whether hybrid working is right for your business, you probably won’t find an arrangement that everyone is 100% on board with. All you need to do is demonstrate that you have listened to your employees’ ideas and concerns and communicated your plans clearly. Once people know your why and the business case behind it, they are more likely to accept it over time.
Is hybrid working the way to achieve work-life balance and make businesses more agile? Only time will tell. One thing is for sure; the world of work is changing. Will your SME be one of the changemakers?
I help SME company Directors just like you to feel confident in their team and content with the way the team runs every day. My goal is to create a less frazzled life for you by offering you and your team mentoring and workshops tailored completely to your needs. Whether you need help introducing hybrid working or anything else that’s stopping things from running smoothly, I can help.
Contact me to find out how I can help you create the business of your dreams, from the bottom up