It goes without saying that the Covid created the greatest workplace transformation of our lifetime, quickly changing the way you and your teamwork. And possibly forever.
Within a week, businesses like yours had to quickly adapt to working remotely. But on the whole, it’s likely that you and your team did an amazing job; quickly adjusting to working from home with surprisingly positive results.
Now the world has returned to (something like) normal, which means you can go back to working in the office like you did pre-covid. Right?
You’re probably reading this because your business has already decided, or is still in the process of deciding to maintain that element of increased flexibility, by giving your employees the choice to continue working from home, or a mixture of office and home, in other words, hybrid working.
And there’s different models we’ve come across. Some employers have decided on staff working predominately (WFH) with a limited requirement to come into the office for team meetings, for example. Others have gone for a more formal mix of Monday to Wednesday in the office – and Thursday and Friday working from home (WFH). In addition, some employers have embraced a 4-day week as part of this process.
Whatever ways it’s done, the benefits of a hybrid workforce can be huge. But, of course, it can also have downsides that you need to both be aware of and manage.
That’s why we’ve created this guide to help you. You’ll discover five of the most important things to consider and get right.
- Create a hybrid working policy
With any sort of change in the business, there are always lots of unanswered questions. This can easily lead to confusion or conflict with your team, which no one wants.
You really need to think about all possible scenarios and create a formal hybrid working policy that becomes the new working blueprint for your business.
Think about how you’ll manage requests for flexible working; how you’ll ensure the office is manned (if it needs to be); how many hours a week or month each employee will need to spend in the office (if any), and how this will be communicated back to you, so you know what’s going on and where your team will be.
You need to consider all of this, plus more, before you go ahead with a new policy so that everyone will know where they stand.
This is all about setting expectations to help protect you, your company, your relationship with your employees and your employee happiness.
Any new hybrid working policy needs to be reflected in your Employee Handbook. Equally, if their place of work needs changing in their contract, from the office to home, you’ll need to run a consultation process, before making any changes to that clause.
- Make sure you’re treating employees fairly
With many of us already experiencing some form of remote working you may have noticed how easy it can be to assume everything’s going well, when behind the scenes someone isn’t happy.
First and foremost, you must ensure that everyone in your business knows that, just as it would be in the office, communication channels to you and/or line managers are always open. Make sure that people know the best ways to voice concerns or complaints, where to go to ask questions and who to speak to should they have any problems.
It is essential that you are pro-active. A good way to ensure this is to book in regular one-to-ones with you team members. At these, you not only give them a line of communication, but you can also provide regular feedback on their performance, and you can use them as an opportunity to communicate on wider business matters and developments, keeping them engaged.
Finally, think of fairness and consistency. Is it fair that different departments get treated differently? It might be that Sales, Marketing and Accounts are now all working from home, and enjoying the benefits, but how about Operations and Technical, who need to work from the office for operational purposes? You need to work this through, before coming to any final decisions around your Hybrid Working Policy.
- Rethink how you manage performance
If you’re not seeing all of your team every day, it can make performance review and management a little more difficult.
One of the ways around this is for regular check-ins or one-to-ones with your team, as outlined above. However, make sure that these are based on a meaningful conversation, rather just asking, “Is everything alright?” There needs to be structured and a proper facilitated conversion, with more meaningful questions, including, “What is currently going well and why?`’, (conversely) `’what is not going well and why?” and “Are there any roadblocks for you personally or professionally?”
Moreover, performance management in businesses needs to switch from instead of measuring ‘time’ spent in the office, to metrics that really measure employee performance.
You may want to track the following type of metrics, if you’re not already (irrespective of your staff working from home or office):
- Business outcomes
- Employee behaviours
- Important activities / tasks / deliverables
By tracking these metrics instead, it’s less about being stuck to your chair from 9 till 5 and more about performance – regardless of how it’s achieved and how long it takes. This is both the essence and benefit of hybrid working.
As a side note, make sure that all of your managers know exactly what the measures of success you’re looking for are, and what success looks like to you, to them and their team. This could be anything from winning new clients to delivering a project – or discrete deliverable of that project.
Again, you should be able to find the right apps or software to help you measure performance easily and accurately. Good HR software may be a good solution to keep everything in one place.
- Focus on team happiness
Just because people are working away from the office, don’t forget to do the things you would do if they were in the office. It’s not ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
Check in with your team regularly.
It’s worth remembering that, while some people flourish when working on their own, others get on better when they have more contact with colleagues. People are either task-orientated or people-orientated, It can be very easy to start feeling isolated when working from home, especially if they’re the latter.
Either way, speaking with everyone regularly can help you to do that. Schedule team meetings via Teams or Zoom at the start or end of each day, and remember to maintain 1-2-1 meetings too, as already highlighted.. It’s not always easy to see what’s going on with individuals when there are lots of people involved in a conversation.
Ensure that training and development continues and isn’t sidelined for those who don’t work in the office all of the time. It’s really important that everyone still has targets and goals and that they are able to keep working towards these, as well as progress their career.
If you have any wellness or mental health initiatives, carry on with them. The same goes for team-building. In fact, these things may be even more important while your team is split. It gives them a chance to bond and can keep everyone feeling more motivated.
Along those same lines, it is really important to ensure that people are taking breaks and making the appropriate time for lunch while they’re working remotely. Contrary to popular belief, people who work from home actually end up putting in more hours than they would in the office and find it harder to switch off from work when it’s time to shut down. But it doesn’t have to be that way if clear, outcome-based metrics exist for people.
- Make sure you’re tech-ready
While we’re not unfamiliar with a working from home set up these days, it is important that everyone is using the right equipment and tools to get the job done efficiently and safely.
Check that your IT infrastructure is up to the job of handling people who are switching from remote to office working regularly. This will include VPN access and good cyber security measures (another side effect of the pandemic has been a surge in cyber-crime and, when you have people working from different locations using different devices, you’re at a higher risk of attack).
Re-assess the tools you’re using to stay in touch and collaborate on projects. Could things be made easier? If you were using a makeshift solution, now is the time to invest in something long-term.
Look for tools that will allow your team to easily stay in touch by email, message, video calls, etc., to share and edit files and to work together a lot more easily. There are lots of solutions out there and your IT department or provider will be able to recommend the most suitable one for you.
Slightly separate, but related, is to ensure that you provide proper workstations for staff and undertake a risk assessment.
Bringing it all together….
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to creating a permanent hybrid team; however, if you follow the correct steps and take the time to plan the change correctly, it could be a great way to get the most from your team.
If you would like any further advice or guidance on creating your own hybrid team, or the policies that should accompany it, we’d love to help. Simply give us a call or drop us a message to arrange a conversation.