Many employees today expect hybrid working as a permanent option. Explore why it’s important to consider, the challenges that come with it, and how to solve them.
According to the ONS, less than 30% of employees in the UK worked from home before the COVID-19 pandemic. At the end of March 2020, when working from home guidance was enforced across the UK, that number increased to 46.6%.
Two years later, now that most government restrictions have been lifted, many employees are still expecting the option to work remotely or come into the office on their terms. In fact, Gartner reports that 75% of hybrid or remote workers say their expectations for working flexibly have increased – and 4 out of 10 employees are even at risk of leaving if their employers insist they return to an in-person office environment.
This should come as no surprise to many HR leaders, as reports suggest that 95% expect some employees to work remotely. However, these new employee expectations do bring some major challenges. In this blog, we’ll explore why it’s so important to get hybrid working right, the challenges your organisation might face implementing it permanently, and how you can overcome them.
The value of Hybrid working
While most organisations don’t offer employees a default option to work remotely, many now see hybrid working as a legitimate employment right, and it can be a key determining factor in organisations’ ability to gain and retain great talent.
If you don’t offer hybrid working, you might see your employees leaving to work remotely elsewhere, or potential employees choosing other companies over yours – even if that means taking a pay cut. After all, they’re likely to recoup their losses in the savings they make on travel expenses.
But it’s not as easy as just offering employees the option to choose where they work. For some employees, it could be detrimental to their productivity and engagement. With a lot of your workforce working separately, many employees are more likely to feel isolated – especially new joiners and younger members of the workforce. These factors mean it’s crucial you take a strategic approach to hybrid working to encourage happy and productive environments no matter where your employees work. And it starts by identifying the key challenges involved
How to manage hybrid workforces
Keeping your employees safe should be one of your first priorities, which can be more difficult when they’re working remotely. You’ll need to understand your responsibilities as an employer, and ensure remote work environments are compliant and meet the necessary safety regulations, all without being too intrusive in your employees’ personal spaces.
These safety precautions need to extend to your office environment too. During the remote working period of the pandemic, your teams may have expanded, and that means you need to provide a suitable office environment that can comfortably support the full capacity of your workforce.
In addition to safety, you’ll likely face reluctance from some employees to return to the workplace at all. It’ll be crucial you host honest and constructive negotiations with these employees, to understand their demands and challenges, and clearly communicate their contracted obligations.
It can also be harder to keep track of tasks when employees are working from home; how you manage remote workers is likely to be different than if they were in the office. The same goes for keeping people engaged and responsive.
This is where having the right communication tools will become essential. Everybody needs to be using the same platforms, and be easily contactable at any time – no matter the working environment they’re in.
Keeping employees connected
Overcoming the logistics of hybrid working can be a big task, and it’s only one part of implementing a successful working structure. Giving your employees the choice of where they want to work can quickly lead to disconnected teams.
To maintain a strong connection between your teams, you’ll need to put in additional efforts throughout the working week – including both remote and in-person team building experiences.
Inviting regular remote workers into the office for out-of-the-ordinary workdays – such as in-person team building days, strategic company discussions, or important meetings – can help create and maintain the rapport your organisation needs to sustain a successful working structure. This’ll be especially important for new joiners and young people, who will benefit from building connections with senior employees and gaining valuable learning and mentoring opportunities.
With employees potentially working in different environments regularly, even something as simple as weekly hybrid coffee mornings, lunches, or workshops can help create regular points of connection between employees – keeping morale up, maintaining employee satisfaction across your workforce.
Bridge the gap with the right tools
Technology can also be a valuable way to overcome some of the challenges associated with hybrid working.
For example, performance management tools can be a helpful way to get a better idea of employee output and support employee engagement, even when teams are working from home. Also, tools like these give you the ability to manage individual employee goals, book performance reviews, and tailor your management processes – wherever you and your employees are.
Alongside embracing systems like these, it’ll also help if you move from task-based management to output-based, measuring the work employees produce rather than how much time they spend behind their screens. This can help employees feel trusted when working from home, and feel like they’re working towards shared goals. The final area that’ll need extra attention is onboarding – you’ll need to help new joiners feel supported, even when they’re starting their roles from home. With the right onboarding tools, you can automate a lot of the tasks involved in the process, and deliver consistent, end-to-end support to new employees. Tools like these can even help you support new hires before they’ve started – helping them access your employee portals, complete paperwork, and sign contracts remotely.
The right working model for you
Of course, hybrid working isn’t the future for every organisation – there are some exceptions where hybrid working won’t be the right solution. To find a strategy that works for your business, it’ll be important you consider the needs of your employees, and identify where hybrid working could bring value to your workforce.
Ready for the future of work?
If you’d like to discuss further how you can manage hybrid workforces, we have consultants with decades of HR experience across a wide range of sectors – just get in touch to see how we can help.