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What is hybrid working and what should I consider as an employer?

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Hybrid working is a form of flexible working that allows employees to split their time between the workplace and working remotely, usually from home. Under hybrid working arrangements, an employee may have set days when they can work from home, for example Mondays and Wednesdays with the remaining days in the office, or a more flexible model where the employee chooses which days they spend in the workplace.  Our Employment Law team today reviews the benefits of hybrid working, the policies that should be in place before embarking on this arrangement and how to manage employees working in this way. 

Hybrid working can be good for employers as it may enable them to make a more efficient use of your premises, fit more people in, reduce parking costs, reduce other operating costs and improve productivity.  It can also be beneficial for employee morale, as many feel it gives them more flexibility and improves their work/life balance.

However, you will need to give careful thought to how hybrid working will operate in your workplace to ensure that both the business and employees benefit from the added flexibility.

Hybrid working arrangements for your business

While your business may have managed full-time homeworking arrangements effectively during the pandemic and consequential lockdowns, hybrid working is a different system and will bring its own unique challenges. Your first step should be to assess whether hybrid working is truly a viable option for your business. If you decide you do want to implement hybrid working, you will need to consider the following:

  • Whether any roles are unsuitable for homeworking;
  • How time will be split between home and the workplace;
  • Whether employees will have set days to work from home or whether they will have the option to choose themselves;
  • Reporting requirements for things like sickness absence;
  • Whether working hours will be the same as in the workplace; and
  • Supervision of employees working from home.

It may be useful to consult with your employees on what worked well with previous homeworking arrangements and what didn’t, and continue to solicit feedback once your hybrid working arrangements are in place. You may have to experiment and make tweaks to get the balance right.

Risks of hybrid working

While working from home has its benefits, some employees may find it difficult to “switch off” and this could result in them working longer hours, increasing the risk of burnout and fatigue. You will need to consider how you will continue to support your employees’ wellbeing and how you can ensure that hybrid working does not take a toll on their mental health.

Another risk of hybrid working is that it may create a divide between those who come into the workplace every day, and those who occasionally work from home. People who work from home may feel that their work is not recognised, or that they are overlooked for promotions. You will need to ensure that employees who participate in hybrid working are given adequate supervision, and equal opportunities for advancement.

Hybrid working policies

Hybrid working arrangements are generally more flexible and so it may not be appropriate to have a policy that is too rigid. A hybrid working policy should contain guidelines for managers and employees, outlining your goals and expectations for hybrid working as well as the type of tasks which should be done in the office and which may be done at home. This can help managers and their reports develop hybrid working patterns that are appropriate to their departments and roles.

Your policy should also outline any limitations to remote working, such as working outside of the UK, and circumstances where you may require the employees to come into the workplace, such as for training or to attend meetings.

You should also reserve the right to review or remove the policy to suit the purposes of the business as circumstances change.

You may need to update other policies to include provisions for hybrid working. For example:

  • Expenses policy – State whether you will provide financial assistance for items such as internet and increased electricity usage at your employees’ homes.
  • Health and safety policy – What, if any, equipment will be provided to enable employees to work from home safely? Risk assessments should be updated to include working from home arrangements.
  • IT policy – Will you provide laptops or allow employees to use their own devices? Remind employees of their data protection responsibilities and not to leave their work device unattended when logged in.

Employment contracts to reflect hybrid working

When making permanent changes to your employees’ working arrangements, you will need to amend their employment contracts. Their place of work should be updated to include their home address in addition to your workplace, but the clause should still include wording which allows you to require them to work at a different location when reasonable.  You will need to consult with, and get agreement from, employees to make these and any other relevant changes, such as changes to their salary, benefits, or hours of work.

Employees refusing to adopt hybrid working

It may seem easier to simply call employees back to the workplace and not allow hybrid working at all, but this approach has its risks as well:

  1. Many employees have enjoyed the flexibility of working from home and forcing them to return to the workplace full-time may impact employee morale.
  2. You may also be inundated with flexible working requests from employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service. You would then have to go through a process of reasonably considering each employee’s application with the possibility of an appeal if their request is rejected.
  3. A refusal of a flexible working request carries with it the risk of an indirect discrimination claim and acceptance creates a permanent contract change which may be harder to reverse or adapt as circumstances dictate.

It may be easier in the long run to consult with your employees and develop a system of hybrid working arrangements that everyone can be satisfied with.

If you have questions on how to implement hybrid working in your workplace, and your obligations under hybrid working, contact our Employment Law Team today on on 023 8071 7717 or email employment@warnergoodman.co.uk.

To receive regular Employment Law updates from the team regarding recent tribunal cases and legislation updates, you can subscribe to our weekly Employment Law Newsletter by completing our subscription form or emailing us at events@warnergoodman.co.uk

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.