Hybrid working is here to stay. There is no denying that the majority of people applying for office-based work will expect some element of remote working as part of their regular contracted hours since the upheaval caused by the Pandemic. What is more, an increasing number of employers are seeing the benefits of it too, as a recent poll into the prevalence of remote working conducted by YouGov suggests.
The poll investigated the level of remote working before and after the Coronavirus Pandemic. Businesses were asked whether all, about half, or some of their employees were allowed to work at home both before and after the Lockdowns. The idea was to gain an understanding of the increase in remote working (working away from the office), but also the development of the degree of hybrid working (mixing office and remote working). 17% of businesses polled allowed all of their employees to work fully remotely before, increasing to 24% afterward. Overall, 66% of businesses allowed a proportion of their employees to work remotely for some of the weeks before the Pandemic happened, increasing to 76% now that restrictions have been lifted. This shows that the inclusion of hybrid working into the everyday practice of these companies is here to stay.
Hybrid working, albeit to varying degrees, is an increasing trend within the UK workforce. Employees site all kinds of benefits to the practice, such as increased productivity, better wellbeing, and improved work-life balance.
In fact, in response to this increasing trend towards flexible and hybrid working, Acas, the government-funded Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service, has released guidance to employers to…
“…ensure staff who are working remotely are not excluded and have access to the same opportunities as those in the workplace such as team building activities, training, and development”
This leaves employers with the challenge of ensuring all team members, even those who are geographically dispersed, are cared for and developed equally. They also have to ensure that work continues to be effective and efficient. What steps can employers make to ensure that their team works well and efficiently despite their lack of physical proximity?
Employees cannot work well at home if they do not have the correct equipment. This can be tackled in a variety of ways.
Traditional techniques include ringfencing a portion of the company budget for purchasing devices for employees to use. This can put additional strain on smaller companies, as normally you require some form of provision for tech maintenance and contingency plans for when tech breaks down.
There are also grants and investment schemes available for companies to make a one-off investment in tech provision for employees. A good place to start for information about these schemes is the Gov UK website that has a database that can be searched according to industry, type of scheme, and size of the company. Sometimes, patience is required to wait for the right scheme to appear, and not all applicants for all schemes are successful.
For hybrid working, where employees are pinging between home and the office, tech benefit packages can help employees keep up-to-date with the latest devices that can be for personal use as well as company use. Often, this means employees are responsible for obtaining their own insurance and maintaining their own equipment, meaning the company can free up funds for other outgoings.
Although email is fine for most small businesses, as your company grows, it is likely that you will require additional support to help your team communicate and work on projects effectively. Email threads can be long and rambling, cramming up people’s inboxes and causing stress when information is misplaced or when people are unnecessarily copied in.
Collaboration and communication platforms are pieces of software that form a type of “digital office” for your company. Your team can log on at any time and leave comments in different conversation “channels”. This allows team members everywhere to keep up to date with the latest developments within any given project. As well as serving remote workers or hybrid workers, it also helps keep projects on track when team members are on or return from annual leave.
There is a range of these programs on the market. They all have different features, so it is worth shopping around before finding one that suits your company. To name but a few:
There can be a temptation to get so wrapped up in the practical elements of making a hybrid team work well, that one forgets a great workplace requires the development of a positive work culture. This is harder to do when people are working remotely and separately. There are lots of ways that tech can really support the development of a positive work culture. It could form the basis of a whole blog post in itself. But here are some of the main ideas that spring to mind:
Ensure that you re-read emails and messages on your company collaboration and communication platforms before sending. This will help you edit your content so that your message has the correct tone and embodies the values of your company.
Give credit where credit is due. If a team member produces work or qualities that particularly demonstrate the ethos of your workplace, praise them for this. Using recognition platforms to do so can subtly but publicly recognise outstanding work and some allow you to reward staff with tangible gifts.
Filming yourself talking about your company values or the latest company news can build positive relationships with your staff. Rather than writing extended pieces of text or internal memos, filming oneself conveying important information allows you to control the tone of your message. It also helps reveal your character and personality and demystifies you, breaking down barriers that can sometimes develop when people are only communicating through tech.
Technology has helped to make the workplace more flexible and inclusive. But, as with all innovations, there can be bad consequences if strategies are not put in place to address negative trends. Technology can cause problems, but it can also solve problems. Software like collaboration programs and reward and recognition software can help develop a hybrid workplace that feels as secure and positive as a wholly physical one. The trend for moving to a permanently hybrid workplace may have been accelerated over the last few years, but that does not mean the development of a positive work environment has to be left behind.