As the ONS releases statistics on hybrid working in SMEs and other businesses over the last year, we bring you some tips on hybrid working in SMEs and ask what the future holds. Will home office space top the list of must-haves for house-hunters? Are packed commuter trains and peak time traffic jams a thing of the past?
The answer, of course, is not so dramatic. Over the last year, the proportion of workers planning to spend part of their time working from home has stayed more or less the same – 84% of those who had to work from home during the pandemic plan to continue for some of their working week. The real change has been in how these people divide their time, with a significant increase in those wanting to spend more of their time at home than in their place of work – some 42% of hybrid workers now wish to do this. Just 8% of hybrid workers plan to return to their place of work permanently.
With hybrid working in SMEs becoming increasingly important, we have put together some top tips on hybrid working in SMEs and how to manage it:
1. Get a policy
It’s vital to deal with hybrid workers in a consistent fashion, and ACAS advises implementing a hybrid working policy for this purpose, setting out how you will manage staff and your mutual responsibilities to each other. If you don’t have one yet, you can use our Hybrid working policy either on its own or as part of your staff handbook. Even if you do not have a specific policy, any hybrid working arrangements made should be agreed in writing to ensure clarity for everyone involved.
2. Stay in touch
Effective communication will enable both you and your hybrid worker to understand what is required of them, what your expectations are and how you see the relationship working. It’s important that you develop a means of communicating that works both for you and your staff member, bearing in mind that a hybrid worker may need to make additional efforts to keep their colleagues and managers updated about their work, but that too much contact may be stressful for your staff. You should agree this with your hybrid worker when the arrangement is approved and review it regularly to ensure that things are working for both you and your staff member.
3. Think about your performance management strategies
You can see Managing staff performance for our free Q&A guidance about managing the performance of your staff, including a template Personal Development Review Form, but you should consider whether your standard practices are suitable for hybrid workers. Whatever your approach, your performance management of all staff should be consistent, and if hybrid working is new for your business, ACAS recommends that you consult with your employees and their representatives about how the performance of hybrid workers will be managed.
4. Don’t forget about training and development
You may also need to consider how you will provide development training and opportunities to a hybrid worker to ensure that they are not disadvantaged in any way as compared to your other staff. For example, it is important to ensure that they are considered for promotions in the same way as your other staff are and do not miss out by potentially not being as visible as staff who attend your workplace. You may need to consider introducing specific training not only for hybrid workers, but also for their line managers (eg on appropriate communication, team building and management, and dealing with hybrid working requests).
5. Remind your staff about the importance of taking breaks
You should agree with your staff member in advance the hours that they will be working (and make any necessary changes to their terms and conditions of employment; see Q&A here), but you must bear in mind the restrictions on working time when managing your hybrid working staff member, ensuring that they don’t work excessive hours and that they take suitable breaks. ACAS recommends that employers support their staff to manage their time effectively as this can help to reduce stress and anxiety. See Rules about working hours for further guidance about your legal obligations towards staff in relation to the hours that they work.
For detailed guidance on flexible working generally, and further top tips on hybrid working in SMEs specifically, see Flexible working and working from home.
Helen Turnbull is Head of Strategic Development for the Marketplace at FromCounsel, the specialist corporate legal resource trusted by top global law firms and FTSE 100 companies. Before joining FromCounsel in 2021, Helen was Head of Content at Sparqa Legal. Having previously spent 12 years practising as a commercial and property law barrister, Helen regularly contributes her expertise to Sparqa’s blog.