The Government is predicting that working from home will continue until at least the end of June, when the government hopes to end all social distancing restrictions. At the moment people are slowly moving back into office. This will stretch on until the end of summer but with luck we should see a full return to the office by the autumn. Companies are going to need to make their mind up about how to get everyone safely back into the office.
The CIPD‘s Embedding new ways of working post-pandemic shows that some 40% of employees expect that more than half their workforce will regularly work from home when the pandemic is over. This is a significant shift from the pre covid days when only 5% of the workforce mainly worked from home.
Some of the workforce are going to want to work from home all the time but most will prefer a balance, where they are in the office for some of the week and at home for the remainder. This shift in working patterns has come to be known as: Hybrid working. Most of our PR agency clients and businesses are starting to implement the 3/2 work pattern, but this will vary from company to company and probably within organisations too. There will be a whole range of work patterns from 5 days in the office to 5 days at home. Some may do 2 hours work and then head off to the office at 10 to avoid the rush hour.
Mark Read, chief executive of WPP, told the BBC, “We’re never going to go back to working the way we used to work, but the new ways of using the office require careful planning. People are working from home three to four days a week so we probably need 20% less space, but we’re not going to do that if everyone’s working from home on Mondays and Fridays.”
There are obvious clear benefits to Hybrid working, but they come with many complexities and challenges. These benefits include a better work–life balance, greater ability to focus with fewer distractions, more time for family and friends, saved commuting time and costs, IT upskilling and higher levels of motivation.
Other benefits of flexible working include savings on office space, higher levels of employee job satisfaction and reduced absence rates.
There is no one way to implement hybrid working and each business is going to have to find its own path as they move to very different uncharted waters.
A year ago, the work pattern shifted from five days in the office to five days at home overnight. This sudden change for some was easy especially for those who had spare rooms and even home offices to work from, but for others it was challenging, sometimes a laptop on the ironing board was the best they could manage. Everyone made do and got on with it but now this will change as the return to the office moves into gear.
The shift to Hybrid working is going to come with significant contractual and HR implications for the companies.
Hybrid working is a form of flexible working, but Companies are going to have to consider whether they need to adapt or update any existing flexible working policies, to include hybrid working as a specific category or introducing a definitive hybrid working policy.
Hybrid working is going to present challenges for companies and particularly the HR and legal departments.
Companies will need to be aware of their employees’ circumstances and their home working conditions. It is even possible that some people may be prevented from working from home by their tenancy agreement, lease or mortgage company. Not only that but company insurance policies may need to cover working from home and what the possible implications could be. What happens if company property (laptops, phones, printers etc.) is stolen in a burglary. Who is responsible if someone has an accident? And this just scratches the surface.
But with this comes a far more flexible workforce. Staff who want to leave London for a life in Cornwall or Scotland can now easily continue working remotely. Staff, hybrid working, will get an improvement in quality of life, with up to three hours a day not commuting.
Companies recruiting can look across the UK or even abroad, they will no longer be tied to the work force in their back yard. The whole company does not need to be in one place. Different departments/divisions can be located across the country or even further afield.
This journey is going to be challenging but ultimately it will be rewarding for everyone and you know what they say about happy hens…