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Hybrid Working – the Pros and Cons to Employers

Head of Employment, Helen Crossland discusses the pros and cons of hybrid working for employers.

Since March 2020 many of us have worked in ways we’ve never done before. Most organisations are now encouraging or indeed instructing employees back to the workplace on a more regular basis, although the prospect of a five-day week in the office continues to harbour limited appeal for many.

A recent ONS survey indicated that if given a choice, 85% of workers would prefer to work in a hybrid way and enjoy a combination of home and office working. Many businesses are presently offering this model of working, at least on an interim basis, but it is still a relatively new concept for the majority. The coming months should reveal how sustainable this style of working is or if hybrid working is an ‘aberration’ and a holding position before people drift back to pre-pandemic ways.

For employers, while it remains to be seen what the future holds for hybrid working, it is evident that hybrid working can carry certain upsides and downsides. Some of these are summarised below.

Benefits

  • Reduced overheads: in terms of office space, facilities and resources
  • Resilience/disaster recovery management:  businesses set up for agile working are better positioned to tolerate events beyond their control such as Government lockdowns, transport, weather, public disorder and terror-related disruptions
  • Upskilled workforce: those used to homeworking may have more honed IT, technological and problem-solving skills
  • Improved productivity: time and stress saved on commuting can be converted into increased work output
  • Motivational:  employees generally thrive if afforded greater trust, autonomy and flexibility
  • Retention: in a high employment job market, employees hold the cards. Workers now want and expect flexible working and are less likely to leave if this is offered
  • Recruitment: employers who accommodate agile working will increase their prospects of attracting a new and more diverse pool of talent.

Drawbacks

  • Culture: reduced office time together can negatively impact and undermine company culture, and create a less cohesive and integrated team environment
  • Information sharing: fewer in-person contacts may curtail opportunities to learn and share news and information about work matters, clients, contacts, market know-how and trends
  • Stimulation: individuals can suffer professionally and personally if they have minimal social and spontaneous interactions with their colleagues    
  • Collaboration: less face-to-face contact between employees can suppress innovation and idea-sharing and impact employee and team relations
  • Inclusivity: employees risk being ‘out of sight, out of mind’ if they are seldom in the workplace. Extra challenges may arise if a two-tier workforce emerges with those mainly homeworking being parents of young children or those with disabilities or anxiety-related conditions
  • Mental health and wellbeing: feelings of being marginalised or of loneliness may be more acute among those who work remotely. The blurring of work and home life and lack of office facilities and support may bring added pressures
  • Supervision: managers may be less equipped to oversee team members working remotely, or to offer the same level of support
  • Learning and development: new or junior staff members may be disproportionality affected by remote working if this places constraints on mentoring, learning by osmosis, training opportunities and integration
  • IT dependence: a robust remote working capability is costly, can create an overreliance on technology and is dependent on staff being adept at using the systems in place. Connectivity and IT problems were cited as the main barriers to effective home working during the pandemic and the number one source of stress
  • Output: remote working can be perceived as impacting productivity. Employers should work to abate and resolve any issues by establishing ground rules and having a policy that sets the parameters for hybrid/home working and when the privilege may be withdrawn.  

Whatever the pros and cons, employers who have entered into hybrid working arrangements will need to address a range of legal and practical issues, including:

  • tailoring standard employment contract clauses to encompass hybrid working, including the place(s) where employees are permitted to work when not in the office and whether a minimum expected attendance at the workplace is required each week
  • introducing new hybrid or homeworking policies that set the boundaries and expectations, including the grounds on which the employer can bring the arrangement to an end
  • updating existing policies to ensure they align with new, remote working arrangements and policies
  • taking appropriate steps to protect confidential information, personal data, company IT equipment and property
  • reviewing health and safety implications and carrying out a risk assessment for remote working
  • evaluating whether any additional household expenses will be paid and notifying employees of their ability to claim tax relief towards additional homeworking costs
  • considering whether current insurance arrangements should be adjusted to cover employees working remotely (including abroad)
  • assessing the continuance of location related salary bands, i.e. London weighting
  • whether (management, IT security, GDPR or other) training should be refreshed
  • reviewing and if needed, improving existing arrangements for the management and supervision of certain roles
  • identifying the tax, immigration and employment law consequences where an employee is working outside the UK jurisdiction.

For any employment-related enquiries or assistance in developing a hybrid, homeworking or flexible working policy for your organisation please contact Helen Crossland, Head of Employment, at helen.crossland@seddons.co.uk or Fiona Mendel, Senior Associate, at fiona.mendel@seddons.co.uk.

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