What is hybrid work?
A hybrid work environment is a term used to describe a modern working method that combines in-office and remote settings. Instead of working entirely remotely or 100% in an office, the hybrid working environment offers employees the best of both worlds.
How does a hybrid work environment differ from the in-person or fully remote experience?
Since the hybrid work environment involves employees working both at home and in the office, the office space itself is used differently. It's possible to use a smaller area since fewer people will be in the building at any one time, saving money and resources. Also, the workspace may be configured differently to enable collaborative working. However, it can also present some issues.
For example, collaborating on projects will undoubtedly be very different when some people are physically at the office and others remotely. If team members work remotely on certain days, they may miss information or instructions presented in the office. This could lead to communication difficulties or confusion over roles and tasks.
There are also differences in terms of leadership and mentorship. Treatment must be fair and equal between staff members working remotely and those working in the office. All team members must receive the same level of support, be managed in the same way, and get the same respect and opportunities for advancement.
What HR considerations are there?
The HR team must consider several factors to assure that the hybrid work environment runs smoothly and that the staff enjoy their experience.
Remote or in-office working – Who decides?
HR should ensure that line managers consult with employees when choosing when to work from home or in the office. Different companies can adhere to distinct systems. For example, employees may have the freedom to select their schedule or comply with a mix of in-office/remote working patterns. Whatever the company's plan is for the future, it must set its policy in all legal documents, including the employee contract, employee handbook, and HR policy. However, this may be constantly adjusted in the next few months, following the current return to the office advice.
The onboarding process
It's crucial to warrant a digitised onboarding process with software such as Moonworkers to make it as simple and convenient for those working remotely or in the office. Having a fully digital onboarding process means nothing gets lost during the process, whether it's paperwork, pension, or benefits and commissions. Moreover, it's easier to manage and leaves an excellent impression on all employees and ensures consistency.
Health and safety considerations
While it's possible to control the office environment for those working in that setting, it isn't always possible to maintain the environment in which remote workers work. Therefore, it is essential to draft new health and safety rules before enrolling your first remote worker. Moreover, providing suitable training around this subject is necessary. Finally, HR and line managers must carry out regular checks to guarantee compliance.
Where and when will work be done?
HR teams may also need to develop hybrid models for place and time arrangements to suit different needs. For example, parents may need more flexibility than entry-level workers in terms of working hours. Moreover, office locations may have a direct impact on employees work-life balance. For example, long commutes could impact employee turnover.
Planning for inclusion
When employees have a non-traditional working arrangement, unconscious exclusion can occur. For example, office workers could forget to keep their remote peers in the loop regarding important updates and information. Moreover, managers who aren't used to leading remote teams might not treat all employees the same way. For instance, it might be more convenient to promote employees that they meet regularly in person. So, managers need to ensure they are fair, inclusive and transparent in their decision making, so they do not inadvertently discriminate against any employee.
Offering adequate support
HR teams must support all employees regardless of their working arrangements. However, because their interactions with other team members may be limited to online meetings, remote-working employees mental health and wellbeing can be overlooked. But just like anyone else, they might suffer from stress, anxiety, or isolation. Therefore, HR need to make sure that line management regularly carries out check-ins on employees and provides enough support wherever they work.
Keeping an eye on workloads
Remote teams receive a never-ending stream of communication through different channels - slack, emails, WhatsApp, and Zoom. Some workers might not be able to cut the line with these channels outside of office hours. As a result, they feel under pressure to demonstrate their productivity while out of the office.
HR teams should set an agreement stating that employees have no duties to respond outside of office hours to prevent this problem.
Hybrid working can be difficult initially, especially for teams that have traditionally worked in an office together. It can sound weird or intimidating to require something urgent from a colleague next to us or change meeting schedules to accommodate everybody. However, with a proper framework and a flexible approach, employees will eventually overcome the situation and discover new ways of working.