21 September 2021

Danny Done, managing director of Portfolio Payroll, provides some tips for organisations considering implementing hybrid working

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has confirmed what many have been saying for some time. A mixture of splitting work between the home and office, known as hybrid (or blended) working, is how most people (85%) would like to work going forward. However, despite a clear preference for this new mode of working, businesses appear to be less certain about what the future holds. ONS data also highlighted that less than a quarter of organisations intended to increase homeworking on a permanent basis, whilst nearly a third were unsure how to proceed. Although these figures were significantly higher in industries that could easily incorporate homeworking, they were still significantly lower than the 85% of people wanting a move to hybrid working.

A reluctance from businesses to immediately implement hybrid working is not entirely surprising given the practicalities that need to be considered. For a start, hybrid working does not come in one size, so it is likely there will be several ways it could be implemented within any given organisation.

However, regardless of what hybrid working eventually looks like, the first thing to be clear on is the organisation’s ‘why’ ― as well as some strategic-level practicalities. The following questions are good places to start:

  • What are the main reasons for considering the change? The answers to this are highly varied, and could include:

    • staff retention

    • cost savings

    • brand reputation

    • hybrid working’s fit with existing flexible working

    • corporate social responsibility

    • wellbeing policies.

Is it practical for the organisation? Information such as the proportion of desk-based staff and how able and safe those staff are to do their job remotely (e.g., whether staff have appropriate home set-ups and whether technology is being used properly) should be understood. Productivity data will also help determine if homeworking is optimal for the organisation and where it has the potential to impact on efficiency. Other practicalities such as impacts on rent or real estate also need to be considered.

  • Is there a high degree of trust in staff? Hybrid working will be a better fit for an organisation which supports a culture where staff have high autonomy over their workload, and success is measured by outputs or outcomes, rather than time spent.

Does hybrid working have strong leadership support? The attitudes of senior managers will be important. Will senior managers ‘walk the talk’ and adopt hybrid working themselves? For example, managers might have the ultimate say on how policies are implemented within their departments and will provide an example to others. If senior managers are not on board, it has the potential to create significant discrepancies within the organisation.

  • What do staff want to see? Surveys will provide valuable insight into what employees are expecting, as well as their reasons for wanting (or not wanting) a more permanent move to working away from the office. Understanding the needs of staff, as well as reasons why they prefer one mode of working over another, will help ensure that any decision made can be appropriately implemented. It might also be important to survey managers who have been managing homeworking through the pandemic. How do they see the future, and what sort of support will they need if hybrid working does become a permanent fixture?

  • Are there any expectations across your industry, or from clients? Clients may like to visit an office or prefer face-to-face meetings. If this is business-critical, it will need to be factored in.


What about the practicalities?

Hybrid working will have many implications within an organisation, and so it will be essential that any discussion brings together representatives from all key disciplines before a decision is made. For human resource teams, there will undoubtedly be questions about contracts and how they accommodate any move to hybrid working (i.e., consultation may be required). Facilities managers will need to consider the impact on real estate and how to manage different and fluctuating demands on the office space available. IT teams will need to ensure data is protected and systems can function virtually.

Health and safety concerns are also important, and there will be several crossovers into other departmental objectives. Risk assessments will be required, and managers supported to carry these out. In that sense, working from home is no different to working in the office. The organisation will still need to identify risks, eliminate them (where possible) and reduce any remaining risks to an acceptable level.

Hybrid working has been receiving a lot of attention, with many surveys indicating that most people who worked from home during the pandemic want to maintain some of the homeworking benefits. Any move to hybrid working will need to be considered as part of the wider company strategy and there are practical implications such as how to ensure effective communication and the wellbeing of staff. 


Featured in the October 2021 issue of Professional in Payroll, Pensions and Reward. Correct at time of publication.