What is hybrid working and how to make it effective
Hybrid working has become the norm for many people, with benefits for work-life balance and beyond. But the business world is still adjusting to this workplace revolution. Here, we explore the pros and cons of hybrid working and how to make it work.
Hybrid working meaning
Hybrid working means employees can split their working hours between their workplace and home, rather than being in an office full-time. The model has become a key focus for businesses since the COVID-19 pandemic restricted the ability to work solely from a set workplace.
Statistics show hybrid here to stay
Before the first national lockdown, 59% of people were spending most of their time in an office. But in April 2020, as the pandemic took hold, 47% of people began to work from home for at least some of the working week, according to the Office for National Statistics.
By early 2022, some 38% of these people who had worked from home during the pandemic said they planned to work to hybrid in the future. And by May 2022, the number of people working hybrid had risen 13% in February to 24%, according to the ONS (external link).
The numbers suggest hybrid is no flash in the pan, but a long-term workplace revolution.
The benefits of hybrid working
Employees want and expect it
Hybrid can help improve retention and open up roles to suitable employees based further afield, with recruiters able to choose from a wider talent pool. And the added flexibility of working between home and the office has become a non-negotiable for many. A recent Microsoft (external link) study revealed 51% of people would be willing to quit their job if hybrid working was removed as an option.
It’s changing offices for the better
Hybrid has also transformed the office. Companies may take the opportunity to downsize to a smaller office, for example. Analyst McKinsey notes that the pandemic transformed the role of the office with many businesses looking to ‘reimagine their workplaces’. Thoughtful scheduling of hybrid working models can help to ensure no employees are left competing for a desk.
Encourages a better work-life balance
Three in four people say the ability to work from home has given them a better work-life balance. They told the ONS they were able to focus better and work faster as well as feeling their wellbeing improved. Some, however, felt collaboration was challenging working from home. A hybrid approach offers the best of both worlds – the ability to have quiet focus times and then to work together in person as a team.
Potential hybrid working challenges
- Inclusivity – businesses may find it challenging to ensure that both the hybrid model and different working schedules are valued equally. Not everyone wants, or has the option to, work from home.
- Collaboration – The Office for National Statistics (external link) found in its 2021 census that people favoured the work-life balance brought about by the model. However, the biggest challenge for many was the issues surrounding co-worker collaboration while working remotely.
- Technology – Companies may need additional infrastructure in place to accommodate this switch. Meeting and comms software could help to replace some face-to-face collaboration.
- Culture – One of the main considerations outside of day-to-day work is how to foster a company culture in the hybrid world. Wherever employees are located, businesses may need to find creative ways to keep employees happy and engaged.
Hybrid working may not suit every small business, so you might decide to run a trial period to test the new arrangements.
What’s the difference between hybrid and flexible working?
Flexible working allows employees to move around their working hours, so they don’t have to follow traditional 9-5 working patterns. Whereas hybrid working focuses on the where, flexible working focuses on the when.
As with allowing workers to work both remotely and in the office, promoting flexible schedules and hours can help to maintain a positive work-life balance. It can be especially useful for those with caring responsibilities, including parents.
Besides this, flexible working also means less pressure is placed on employees regarding when they start work. As a result, stronger, trusting relationships can be formed between staff and managers, which can, in turn, help drive motivation and healthy communication.
How to effectively embrace hybrid work
Create a hybrid policy
Hybrid has ushered in a whole new way of working, and as an employer you need to ensure people know how everything will work.
Acas, the workplace conciliation service, advises businesses to draw up a policy for home and hybrid working (external link). It says your policy document should outline things like how often an employee needs to be in the office, and provide guidance for managers to help on-board hybrid workers.
Treat people as individuals
Besides communicating the rules of your new hybrid working model, speak with each employee and establish their wants and needs.
As a manager, you’re responsible for your line reports when they’re remote as well as in the office. Acas guidance (external link) says it’s your job to support your remote workers to effectively manage their time and improve their work-life balance.
Consider hybrid health and safety
Having your team working from home some of the time brings additional health and safety considerations.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reminds employers they have responsibilities for people working at home as part of a hybrid model.
- Stress and mental health issues related to working remotely
- Their needs related to laptops, monitors and desk set up
- The space or room they’re working from.
Be sure they can work from home
Not everyone has a large family home to work from. During the pandemic, around one in three people living in London house-shares were working and sleeping in the same room, according to the London School of Economics (external link).
The HSE advises (external link) you to talk to your employees one-to-one to ensure they can work from home. If they don’t have a suitable spot, they may prefer to be in the office. You can help to establish this by carrying out workplace risk assessments as mentioned above.
Join the collaboration generation
Whether we’re talking Microsoft Teams or Zoom, Slack or Asana, the home working revolution through the pandemic saw collaboration tools go mainstream. Analyst Gartner reports that use of collaboration tools soared 44% (external link) between 2019 and 2021, with 80% of workers using them.
And there’s no wonder. It was these tools that enabled teams to keep working across motorways and oceans and projects to be delivered on deadline. Gartner says such tools will be ‘essential for enabling innovation in a hybrid workforce’.
Prioritise cyber security for home workers
The shift to remote working brought a host of new IT and cyber security challenges. The National Cyber Security Centre (external link) recommends the use of 2-factor authentication software to reduce the chances of cyber criminals gaining access to your networks.
The NCSC also suggests using a VPN, or virtual private network, to ensure your employees can access their work and emails from your company’s file servers at home. Review the NCSC guidance on using a VPN (external link)
For small business owners, it can be both exciting and daunting to implement a new hybrid working model. It’s a great opportunity to join the growing group of contemporary companies making moves to improve work-life balance and performance. As the business world moves forward post-pandemic, it seems the ‘old normal’ has been firmly replaced.
At Hiscox, we want to help your small business thrive. Our blog has many articles you may find relevant and useful as your business grows. But these articles aren’t professional advice. So, to find out more on a subject we cover here, please seek professional assistance.