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A webinar yesterday from the CIPD focused on how to get the most from hybrid working.
Employers will need to learn as they go when it comes to rolling out hybrid working on a large scale because best practice is yet to emerge, a leading expert told a Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development [CIPD] webinar yesterday.
Gemma Dale, a lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University, said she anticipated that many employers would have to adopt hybrid working, if only temporarily, as lockdown eases and given the vaccination rollout and uncertainty about Covid variants. She advised employers to see it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rethink how we work. She said trust was at the centre of good hybrid working.
Other issues to consider include management based on outcomes, good communication, having the right technology in place, inclusion [ensuring remote workers, for instance, don’t miss out on promotion or training opportunities], wellbeing and the need for meaningful face time. Hybrid working will mean rethinking every part of the employee life cycle, she said, from recruitment and induction to promotion, and will require support for line managers to manage differently. Dale added that every employer will have to consider their own context and experiment with what might work best for particularly teams. All employees will need to be upskilled to work differently, she stated – and HR managers should not assume people know how to do it because they have worked remotely over the past year.
Claire McCartney, a senior policy adviser at CIPD, said a recent survey showed two thirds of employers plan to introduce or expand hybrid working over the next six to 12 months. She spoke of the need for employers to listen to their employees, to engage their people managers and to put inclusion and fairness at the heart of their strategy.
She highlighted the need for open conversations about wellbeing, with employees encouraged to share what works for them; for routines such as scheduling calls and making space for lunch breaks so that people are not overwhelmed with meetings; for special attention to creativity and problem-solving, for instance, ensuring remote meetings have clear aims and preparation time or that face-to-face meetings are scheduled and coordinated for brainstorming [she mentioned that some employers are using a scheduling app to do this]; the need for face to face time to build team and organisational belonging [for instance, through town halls with senior leaders]; the need to facilitate networking across teams through, for instance, opportunities for co-working, social events, online cross-organisational groups or mandatory time in the office; and for a wider support network to make up for the lack of informal learning, for instance, more structured development opportunities or rotas for team members to spend time with a new starter.
Both McCartney and Dale said it is important for employers not to forget that flexible working is not just about location-based flexibility and to consider flexi or reduced hours as well as other forms of flexible working. Dale said many people cannot work remotely so to avoid a sense of us and them, employers should ensure there is some form of parity when it comes to flexible working, for instance, granting flexi hours or giving employees a greater sense of autonomy over their shifts. It is important, she added, that flexible working is discussed within teams and she said such discussions could lead to useful solutions.
Matt Reymes-Cole, legal manager at Croner, spoke about the legal implications of hybrid working and said the law is often very slow to catch up on work trends. Therefore the main legislation is the long-standing flexible working legislation. Employers could consider employee requests for hybrid working either informally or formally. If formally, they could turn them down for certain reasons and should handle a request in a reasonable manner. They need to beware of acting in a discriminatory way [ie denying a request because of a protected characteristic] and denying a request unreasonable resulting in constructive dismissal. If employers are looking to enforce hybrid working they should check if the employee’s contract allows this [this is likely to be rare, he said], consult on changes and show a strong business rationale for the change as well as that a fair process has been followed.
Reymes-Cole also said that employers need to consider the health and safety of permanent hybrid workers, including conducting workstation assessments, providing appropriate equipment and thinking about lone workers. They should also consider the data and insurance implications of remote working. He was asked about employees who might want to work abroad. He said there is no legal issue with this, but that employers should check out the employment law in the country the person is moving to and get local advice as well as advice on tax and data protection issues.
*WM People will be holding a roundtable with employers on hybrid working next week. Watch out for the free White Paper on this which will sum up the discussion and how a range of employers are tackling the move to hybrid working.