Recent headlines suggest that there may be a ‘big return to the office’, whilst others promote the success of flexible working schemes, such as the successful outcome of the four day working week trial.
Since the pandemic there have been changes in working practices, attitudes and expectations for many and the conversation around hybrid working continues.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest that 28% of working adults are working on a hybrid basis in 2023 and that 16% work solely from home. Home or hybrid workers are more likely to be in professional roles, degree educated or above and be in the highest income band.
Why Offer Hybrid or Flexible Working?
According to the ONS:
- 78% of hybrid workers say they have an improved work life balance
- 52% say they complete work more quickly at home
- 53% say there are fewer distractions at home
- 47% report improved wellbeing
Research also suggests that job applicants and employees are motivated by flexibility, which is considered the most important motivator in keeping employees in their jobs – valued even more so than salary.
How Can Employers Manage Requests for Hybrid or Flexible Working?
The right to request flexible working is of course well established, and is set to widen as a result of the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill. Alternatively, employers may decide that a formal request under their flexible working policy is not required, and there can be some advantages to dealing with requests outside the formal regime. Some employers have introduced hybrid working policies, allowing them to consider how their approach to hybrid working can meet their commercial needs. However employers decide to deal with requests for flexible or hybrid working, they should be mindful of any risks associated with how they deal with the request, particularly around possible discrimination risks if they decide to reject a request.
What Are the Potential Challenges?
Is hybrid working offered equally across the organisation? What are the consequences for different protected characteristics ie are there more women working in a hybrid capacity than men?
There can be challenges around how to effectively manage and supervise staff who are working remotely, and a different approach may be required to measuring performance. Employers need to be aware of the risk of ‘proximity bias’ – the idea that managers may perceive those employees who they see onsite as working more effectively than those who are working remotely.
There may be practical issues around the working environments of those staff working at home, around the need to ensure confidentiality and manage data protection effectively and around health and safety requirements.
There may also be some challenges around staff who need to balance caring responsibilities and working remotely, or those who request to work abroad. Finally, there can be a divide between groups of staff who can work remotely and those who can’t.
Don’t Forget Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
Research suggest that hybrid/flexible working is popular amongst underrepresented groups, with research suggesting that:
- employees with disabilities were 11% more likely to opt for hybrid working than those without disabilities
- those who identify as non-binary were 14% more likely to prefer hybrid working and LGBTQ+
- employees were 13% more likely to choose hybrid working over their heterosexual colleagues
Employers should also be mindful not to unintentionally exclude particular groups where hybrid/remote working is imposed, such as those without suitable home working space or those who would benefit from working alongside colleagues in order to aid their development.
How Can Narrow Quay HR Support You and Your Organisation?
Narrow Quay HR can work with you to review your hybrid and flexible working arrangements, work with you to implement hybrid working policies and provide training for managers on managing and engaging remote/hybrid teams.