The following blog is part of Boost HR’s Shine a Spotlight Series, where we are inviting guests to share a blog post that highlights the work they do, the value they bring and to inspire reflection and action. This week our guest is Keith Stapleton of Select Planning.
Considerations for a Hybrid Workforce
The hybrid home and office solution
When the Coronavirus hit, having employees working from home enabled businesses to continue to serve their customers with previous concerns swept aside as the need was greater.
Whilst no one can predict exactly when corona’s influence will lessen its grip, it is now time to consider where employees can work from in the future.
Employees, who have worked at home and in the office, usually express a combination could suit them. My aim is to highlight the important things to consider, to make that work. Productivity and utilisation should be considerations within the solutions:
Understanding the company benefits and drawbacks
Reducing the dependency on less flexible shifts, infinite homework space whilst the same office space can accommodate fewer employees and reducing the infrastructure costs cannot be ignored. However office ownership and lease commitments along with having “sight” of the workforce to support management and welfare are equally important considerations.
Understanding the employee benefits and drawbacks
Reducing the inconvenience and cost of travel are obvious benefits, along with the perceived flexibility of being at home. However flexibility needs to suit employees and the business, whilst ensuring welfare. How to prevent isolation is critical along with learning and development – unless valued, the important “non work” activities will be removed or reduced.
Understanding all the reasons
Employees may want the same thing at first glance, but it is likely they will have very different reasons that influence their decisions. Understanding these reasons is likely to identify groups of employees with similar situations and these groups need their own tailored solution, one size is unlikely to suit all.
Setting the minimum standards
Your current Corona actions are contingency solutions rather than permanent, so be prepared to change things through employee engagement.
Offices are designed with welfare in mind, the same level of welfare is unlikely to apply to an employee’s home. If working at home becomes permanent you need to set a minimum standard to ensure they will not suffer as a consequence, (is working on the dining table suitable long term?).
Identify how employees will be managed and the changes to the skill set required to do this, do not rely on technology alone to manage what staff are doing each day. People resent being “spied on” yet need recognition for their efforts, it is a difficult balance that you’ll need to adapt as you all learn.
Creating the solutions
Do not over egg the benefits of flexibility in home working, the mathematics can be very compelling, but the reality of how to deliver them may be less so for employees.
Often working hours for homeworkers have been described as “hopping on to help when needed”. Be realistic how often employees will be willing to interrupt their home life to work, consistency in working practices as being the most important thing.
Time in the office requires the most consideration. It would be understandable to ask employees to come to the office for learning and management, but less so to do work they also do at home. Willingness to travel is dependent on the perception of need and priority, you must be both clear in what office time is for and when.
The principles of the hybrid workforce are easier to agree upfront, whilst the detail makes them work so must not be assumed nor ignored.
Consultation with employees is vital to understand what motivates them to work in their desired way and identify how the business may need something else.
No single solution will suit all, not every employee will want to work at home, some may want or need to all the time so do not rule out either option in your solutions as a principle.
Be clear on how changes to choices will be dealt with and by whom.
Do not hide behind subsidiary concerns, neither technology, data security or trust (or lack of) remain reasons to solely reject a homeworking solution.
Consult with other partners, such as HR, IT and Estates and Unions, to ensure a joined up approach is given.
You cannot meet all demands from all employees, but carefully designed solutions will also support your flexible working processes.
Finally, do not ignore this challenge as there are benefits to all involved, equally understand how those benefits are realised to ensure any downsides do not negate them.