As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, many employers across the UK now offer staff the flexibility to work from home. Olivia Bailey, solicitor in Harrison Drury’s employment law team, highlights what adjustments employers need to make in order to provide and manage ‘hybrid’ working patterns on a permanent basis.
As government restrictions have slowly fallen away, a ‘hybrid’ working model is the preferred option for many workers, spending part of their working time at home and the remainder in the office. Many employers will now be considering what ‘hybrid’ means for their business. This may include allowing staff to work at times which best suit them and outside the conventional 9am – 5pm working day, five days a week.
Many businesses have realised home working does not impact on productivity and, in some cases, offers both employers and employees beneficial cost savings. However, it’s important to remember that if employees are going to be working from home under more permanent arrangements, they will need ongoing support and guidance, which will likely require a shift in management style from managers.
Employee management through coaching
A coaching style is becoming a widely favoured approach for many businesses, helping employees to develop their own careers and take responsibility for their own performance and development. This involves managers being open and available, encouraging staff to ask questions and know their limits by identifying areas where they need assistance.
These skills are vital for hybrid workers, given the time spent working independently, as well as for trainees and apprentices, or those coming back to work after long absences.
Where managers can adopt an open managing style, this can lead to greater employee engagement and improved team performance.
What to consider in a hybrid working model
To summarise, against this post-pandemic backdrop, it’s clear that the new working environment opens-up a number of considerations for employers to address, including:
- Hours of work: Depending on the nature of the business, employers could consider if agile working is possible, so staff can work the hours that suit them, while ensuring that workers stay within the 48-hour working week or put opt-out agreements in place in line with the Working Time Regulations.
- Contractual variations: Are any permanent changes to working arrangements proposed in your new work model? If so, employers need to consider if employment contracts should be updated to reflect the amended terms. However, before updating contracts, employers should follow a consultation process to agree the proposed terms, which may include relevant trade unions, or elected employee representatives.
- Policies: Consult with staff on their preferences to hybrid working. If employees are going to be splitting their time between home and the office, consider whether a hybrid working policy should be drawn up, that clearly sets out the expectations of both the employer and employee.
- Equipment and expenses: Will the employer provide and maintain equipment and/or pay for employees’ costs of working from home (i.e. second screens or desk chairs)? If employers can remove any obstacles to improve the working from home environment, this will be highly valued by employees. Risk assessments should also be carried out and recorded to ensure compliance with health and safety obligations.
- Management: Employers may need to adapt their one-to-one and review procedures, as well encouraging managers to maintain conversations with teams on topics other than work, on a daily and weekly basis. By keeping open avenues of communication, not just in relation to work matters, this can help to improve employee performance and wellbeing. More junior or new team members who joined during the pandemic will appreciate regular communication, in addition to more traditional one-to-one reviews.
Making changes in the employment context can be challenging and the implications of getting it wrong could be far reaching. Therefore, if you would like assistance implementing new working practices, or would like detailed advice regarding effective management for hybrid working, please contact Harrison Drury’s employment law team on 01772 258321.