What challenges does hybrid working pose to employers in the future?
It is well known that one of the many changes observed since the COVID-19 pandemic is in regards to employment. If businesses were not permitted to run as usual, the primary options were remote-working, furlough and layoffs. However, remote-working has remained commonplace even after the restrictions put in place during COVID-19 were lifted and it is now a preferred method of working by many.
Remote working is a general term for working from home or another place rather than from an office space, but it also encompasses hybrid working. Hybrid working is another form of flexible working where employees spend some time working remotely, whether that be at home or elsewhere, and some time working in the employer’s work space. Both hybrid working and working from home can be beneficial for employees yet can pose some challenges for employers.
One of the primary arguments for hybrid working views it as more accommodating for employees with larger families or those that require more care. Flexible working hours that can be divided between the office and home allow employees the time to take care of their familial responsibilities without neglecting or falling behind on their office work. Other benefits to employees include reducing costs incurred when working away from home, such as commute costs, and facilitating more spare time for health and wellbeing activities.
Opposingly, some employees may find establishing a healthy work-life balance when hybrid working a significant difficulty. When bringing one’s work life into their home life, the division between the two domains can blur. The ability to separate the two and effectively prioritise tasks accordingly is not a skill that all employees will share. Thus, different levels of support for employees would be required from employers. The potential challenge to employers here would be knowing how to successfully assist their employees in the adjustment to hybrid working and allowing a small degree of leniency for any initial discrepancies while also ensuring there are no harmful consequences to the running of the organisation.
The rise in working from home and hybrid working is likely to be a growing challenge particularly for employers who favour in-office working. The flexibility that hybrid working provides may be a determining factor, or certainly an important consideration, for a number employees as to whether they wish to work for a particular organisation or not. Employers who only wish for fully in-office teams may find it a greater struggle to recruit new employees and risk an increased employee turnover than employers who combine in-office working with remote-working. Repeated surveys have found that employees are prepared to leave their jobs for greater flexible working opportunities if they are unable to access them in their current role.
One can acknowledge that for those employers who do support hybrid working, a slightly more ‘hands off’ approach to management is required and that can create further challenges. Whilst there is still undoubtedly a need for guidance and management for employees working from home, not having a fully in-person team reduces the ease at which employers can manage their employees, arguably posing a slight risk to business efficiency. Communication is key in this respect. Without effective communication, poor flow of information is a likely consequence, resulting in knowledge gaps and inefficient team working. There is also a risk of employees working outside the office growing to feel excluded.
Another challenge that hybrid working may create for employees considers the legal implications. When a formal or statutory request for hybrid working, made by employees, is approved, there is a formal change to the terms and conditions of the employment contract. Challenges may arise when ensuring that both the employer and employee understand the implications of this and arrive at an agreement. To learn more about this or need advice from an employment professional click here.
On the other hand, one could argue that there are a small number of benefits of hybrid working for employers. One such benefit, particularly in small offices, is the ability to take on more staff. Being able to rotate employees in and out of office could facilitate a larger workforce without the need to incur additional expense for an office expansion.
Though there are many challenges that hybrid working and working from home pose to employers, the reality seems to be that they are becoming much more common ways of working. Hence, one could argue that there is a need for employers to learn how to overcome such challenges in order to maintain a strong and cooperative workforce.