The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has published new practical guidance on hybrid working. The guidance covers areas as varied as recruitment, health and safety, and ensuring policies and practices are inclusive and fair.
The new guidance, commissioned on behalf of the government’s flexible working taskforce, comes in the context of significant movement from the UK government on the topic of modern working habits. Just recently, at the end of November 2021, the House of Commons Library published a briefing paper, “Flexible working: Remote and hybrid work“, which reviewed the current state of the law on flexible work and made recommendations for future reform. This included calls for the implementation of the right to disconnect from work during non-working hours and for flexible working as a day one right, on which we await the UK government’s response to its consultation.
Why hybrid working?
Against that background, and the changes to working patterns accelerated by the pandemic, this guidance is likely to prove invaluable to employers. It deals exclusively with hybrid working (working partly in the office and partly elsewhere), as opposed to flexible working more generally. The report takes a positive approach to hybrid working, laying out the benefits to both employers and employees alike. For employers, offering hybrid working can help to attract talent and can improve productivity, engagement and motivation in the workplace. For employees, the benefits can be seen in an improved work-life balance, reduced commuting costs and greater autonomy. The combination of home working with office work also provides social and collaborative advantage that purely remote working cannot. However, the report is also quick to point out that hybrid working is not possible or practicable for every employee.
The guidance begins by discussing employers’ approaches to implementing new hybrid working patterns, as well as the importance of including employees or their representatives in the process of defining hybrid working in the organisation’s specific work context.
The guidance emphasises the need to train and support managers in a new, adapted approach to managing people in a hybrid environment. Managers will need to have knowledge of the law on flexible working and discrimination, along with understanding how to support employees in managing their own digital wellbeing while also encouraging social interactions.
Recruitment and induction
The guidance recommends adapting the organisation’s recruitment approach, processes and systems. Employers will need to consider how to hire workers who have the skills needed to work in a hybrid context. Organisations should ensure that there is a consistent, firm-wide approach to recruitment, and ensure that information on hybrid working patterns is given clearly. Once employed, new staff will require appropriate training, as well as the support needed to adjust and to understand the organisational culture.
Inclusion and fairness
The guidelines emphasise that an inclusive and fair hybrid policy will require fair access to hybrid working opportunities, equality of treatment between hybrid and non-hybrid workers, and consistent, transparent decisions relating to hybrid work. These policies must recognise that not everyone can or will want to work in a hybrid way. Despite recognising that hybrid working can have the benefit of opening up job opportunities to disabled people and those with long-term health conditions or caring responsibilities, there are also issues of hybrid workers having fewer opportunities for promotion and bonuses. In that context, it is important to take steps to reduce the stigma and imbalances sometimes associated with hybrid working.
Health, safety and wellbeing
Employers have health and safety responsibilities to all employees, irrespective of where they are located. Hybrid work can support health and wellbeing. However, employers also face challenges in this area to ensure a safe and appropriate working environment, and to tackle the issues of digital presenteeism, blurred boundaries between work and rest, and a sense of isolation.
For employers, this new guidance is a useful tool as a starting point for considering hybrid working policies in their context. Given the changes in society and working patterns, questions of hybrid work cannot, and should not, be ignored. However, it is also important to remember that working patterns remain in flux. It seems sensible for employers to keep listening to employees and remain flexible where possible.