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Hybrid working, the new hot topic in businesses, offers a happy balance between working from home and going into the office. Hybrid working is straightforwardly a different way of describing flexible working arrangements. Even if its temporary, a hybrid working environment can help employers manage a return to the workplace safely whilst still in COVID-19. There may also be an arrangement for alternative working hours for office-based days (9-5) to those who work from home (flexible). Whether hybrid working is here to stay, isn’t yet quite clear. Managing burnout is entirely different for those working from home.

For the last few months, employers will be asking “What does hybrid working mean?” As businesses begin to reopen and normal operations continue, business leaders and HR professionals are planning their post-lockdown future. And the word at the forefront of it is hybrid.

At this pivotal moment, employers must decide if employees can continue to work from home or if they must return to the office, or if the future of work is a blend of both. With recent events leading people to work from home once again, a hybrid option gives employers the safety of having options, to be able to choose between going into the office for mental health and well-being or working from home to prevent infection rates rising.

Hybrid working, the new buzzword in business, offers a compromise between home working and going into the workplace. It could shape up as an appealing way to manage business needs with the wishes of employees.

So first up, what is hybrid working really?

Hybrid working isn’t a ‘new’ phenomenon. It has always been around. However, its relevance has been accelerated by COVID-19. There is not an exact definition of hybrid working as it can take many different forms, but essentially, it means a working arrangement in which an employee works a period of time at home, or at another remotely, and the rest of the time in the workplace or at a central hub. Hybrid working in its simplest form is an alternative way of describing flexible working.

What does hybrid working mean for employers?

The pandemic has presented an unprecedented opportunity for employers to re-think their approaches to flexible working/ hybrid working. Many people have successfully proven that working from home can be successful, even in roles where it was previously thought to be somewhat impossible.

But, for many employers, it’s not as easy as one would hope. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the revival of hybrid working will require a big culture shift for many companies. It will mean new ways of working and that will require associated HR policies and practices to be put in place. As daunting as it may sound, it is also a great opportunity to reevaluate company culture, is it working? What improvements can be made?

The hybrid working is likely to put strains on managers who will need to manage and support employees and build team cohesion in a variation of ways. Managers, at least initially, will need additional training and support to effectively manage hybrid teams, as it may pose different challenges.

For some employers, it may be more complex, with different hybrid models/terms required for different parts of the organisation, according to specific roles. Internal communication plans will need an overhaul and there are also legal implications to consider. However, in saying this, organizations that choose to not adopt support hybrid working are in danger of losing talent and retaining team members. Additionally, employers could face recruitment problems in the future, especially if employees come to expect it. Even in the short-term, turning down employees’ requests for flexible working is likely to have a negative impact on engagement and productivity overal.

That’s not to say that hybrid working is right for every business or even every single employee. But it is important for employers to weigh up the pros and cons before implementing flexible working solutions. If properly implemented and supported, it could be an extremely positive business move.

Even for temporary measures, hybrid working environments will help employers manage a return to the workplace safely in the light of COVID-19. Moving forwards, a common set-up for employees to take on looks likely to be a minimum of two days per week in the office and working the rest of their week at home. Or alternatively, a mixed schedule so employees switch days/times in the office each week to ensure various face-to-face interactions with everyone over a set period of time. Another hybrid work solution which is become increasingly popular is working one week in the office followed by several weeks working from home (a position that widens the geographical location for recruitment) There may also be an arrangement for different working hours for office-based days (9-5) to those worked from home (flexible).

What does hybrid working mean for employees?

Since working from home has become a recurring requirement following Covid-19 guidelines and many employees have become so used to working from home, many are enjoying the benefits, such as saving money, no long commutes, better work-life balance, more family time, fewer interruptions, feeling more productive, and so on. Research shows that after the pandemic, many workers want to continue to work from home, for at least some of the week. Ideally, a hybrid working model will satisfy most employees, enabling them to enjoy convenience and increased productivity benefits. Hybrid work also opens up opportunities for working parents, carers, and people with other outside-of-work responsibilities, meaning there is minimal risk of alienating talent.

The biggest hurdle, on the other hand, is the ability to work cohesively within teams. While it has been managed reasonably successfully during the pandemic using Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams and a whole load of other video conferencing platforms, the truth is nothing can replace the natural bonding with people working closely together.

Whether hybrid working is here to stay, isn’t yet quite clear. For the large majority of businesses, it will at the very least be a transition phase. Understanding how to support employees through that change will be crucial for a successful implementation. Could Hybrid working be for you?