As we progress further into a working landscape where flexibility is the expectation rather than the exception, a hybrid model can be a good way to find balance for many businesses – but how to make it work?
What is a hybrid model? This model of flexible working allows a mix of flexible and in-house workers or working hours. Some staff may do half the week at home, for example, while others may vary their hours between the office and elsewhere.
An individual’s openness to flexible working can depend on their personality, their home situation, and the nature of their work, to name a few variables. Similarly, the culture of a workplace can influence its adaptability to flexible working.
Flexible Working increases diversity and inclusion by allowing more people to work on a part-time basis. It also closes the gender pay gap as women who may not have been able to return to the workforce after having children can do so at a staggered rate or in the hours that suit their family life. And despite common belief, it also increases productivity and engagement, with studies showing that home based workers get more done in a shorter amount of time than office-based workers, who may be more inclined to chat around the water cooler.
To run a successful hybrid office, businesses need to normalise and promote flexibility. This helps build a culture where people who do flexible working feel they can ‘leave loud’.
‘Leaving loud’ means being able to proudly walk away from your office desk when your flexible arrangement allows it. To make this possible there needs to be a mutual understanding and good communication with all staff on flexible working expectations.
A key part of the process for troubleshooting a hybrid model revolves around the planning stage. If the flexible working policies are well considered and communicated, and leaders have robust training on how to manage flexible workers, this model should work for all involved. And if it doesn’t, there needs to be a clear way out so that employers are not stuck with a flexible worker who, as it turns out, really needs to be in the office.
A hybrid model has some other benefits, as it allows for different types of people to remain happy in the workplace. Extroverts may appreciate the social aspects of work and thrive off the back-and-forth with other employees. Others may like to go to the office because they like the separation from home life. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach which is why a hybrid model can often be the answer.
So how to make a hybrid model work? Here are 3 steps you can follow to get your workplace ready:
Step 1: Discover what flexible work looks like in your business
Connect flexible working with your People and Culture Strategy and look at how it could work for your business. Where are the boundaries? Decide what infrastructure would be needed to support it.
Step 2: Design the framework to support flexible working
Talk to your leaders to get their input and engagement. Develop a Flexible Work Policy, a Toolkit to support your leaders, and create a clear set of principles to follow so everyone will understand how it will work. A change management plan can be helpful to ensure the change is embedded in the company culture.
Step 3: Deliver ongoing training and support for leaders to help them manage hybrid teams
A Flexible Work Policy is not a ‘silver bullet’ when it comes to embedding successful Flexible Working practices. Leaders need to trial, test, review, and re-test flexible work arrangements. Identify people in your organisation to be Flexible Work Champions. These Champions will act as a ‘go to’ person when it comes to troubleshooting and direction, point leaders to the right resources and run induction sessions on an ongoing basis with leaders.
It is important to be open-minded when it comes to flexible work requests and engage regularly with remote workers to make sure it’s working for them as their situations change. If a proposed arrangement doesn’t fit, leaders should show consideration and work with the employee to find another way.
A flexible workplace requires a shift in culture and like any culture change it’s not successful until you change behaviour. Introducing a Flexible Working Policy isn’t enough on its own. You need to talk with your people, update their Employment Agreements and Terms, change the way you look at performance management, upgrade and take advantage of the technology that’s available to support this new way of working. Most importantly, you need to make sure your leaders are leading and enabling by example.
If you need a support with implementing and managing flexible work in your business contact the team at Freerange Works on 0800 04 FLEX for a free consultation.