Hybrid working - key considerations

These are the significant workforce issues for organisations to consider when developing hybrid working.

Is hybrid working right for my organisation?

Always start with the why. Examine the drivers behind moving to a hybrid model. Is it about responding to recruitment and retention challenges? Financial drivers? Being more eco-friendly (by having less commuting and travelling for work or fewer offices)? Whatever it is, we recommend you start at the beginning and work through the rationale and explore all your organisation’s strategic objectives and how different arrangements of hybrid working could help you to deliver those.

Location, location, location

 Hybrid working is about developing a mixture between office-based, co-located work and working from other locations. How that is arranged, and the balance between those two working locations, is always going to depend on the role, the demands of the role, and the logistical factors around supporting and managing that role. Nonetheless the basic concept is moving towards a model where there is greater flexibility and the employee is not always co-located in the office.

Embracing greater flexibility in location requires a consideration of two key factors: which parts of role are time dependent, and which part of the role are location dependant. This infographic below from the Stephen Bevan at the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) neatly captures these factors:

This graphic shows that you can map work on a line according to how time dependant or time independent it is, and that line is intersected by another line which explores how location dependent a job is. This is useful to map work and tasks against, to establish how important the regulation of time and location is, for aspects of any particular role.,

Looking at this, you can immediately identify a range of local government roles that will have less flexibility on where they are able to be done and those where more flexibility will be possible. Service delivery demands will be a driving factor. 

Consultation and engagement

It's important to ensure that all stakeholders are engaged in thinking about and developing hybrid working practices. You should involve employees, elected members and local partners to think about how and when and where staff need to be visible and available to be able to deliver the council’s objectives, and what flexibilities roles, teams, departments and services can accommodate. 

Productivity and performance

In hybrid working models where staff are more remote and distributed, it is more difficult to measure productivity and performance in terms of activity or hours spent working. It becomes more difficult for managers to judge workloads, or capabilities. Hybrid working needs new ways of defining what ‘good’ looks like in a job. Managers will need to be more outcome focussed and less output focussed. Can your organisation change how work is organised and allocated?  Are systems in place that help managers and other staff know when work has been completed and, crucially, when it has been done well? Do your learning and development activities support this new way of performing? 

Teamwork and collaboration

Often one of the most important elements of our working relationships is proximity – the people we see most and interact with frequently are the people we tend to get closest to. A move to more remote and distributed working will change this and will need to be replaced with new ways for people to connect. This bring a focus on the soft skills of working – the ability to work in a team, to collaborate, share information, to build trust and have resilient relationships across the organisation, whether in person or virtually. Does your organisations have other ways for teams to come together, share ideas, innovate, and learn from each other? Will you need to rethink what jobs, skills and behaviours are suitable to deliver work in new and effective ways? Will this impact on your recruitment or induction practices?

Leadership and management

In remote and distributed working leaders and managers have more responsibility for helping staff to connect with work. When people are less together than before it becomes even more important to have a strong work purpose for staff to understand and engage with and deliver against. Leaders and managers will need to create and nurture a sense of belonging when people are working in multiple places. Do your leaders and manager have the correct skills and resources to build open and authentic communications, psychological safety, and trust to empower more autonomous working? Do managers understand how to manage and motivate staff who don’t sit next to them? Do your line management roles allow the appropriate time for bringing together people and work in new ways? How do you identify and communicate an organisation’s culture when you don’t live in that culture?

Employee health and wellbeing

The lockdowns showed us how important it is to make a sustained effort to support staff with their health and wellbeing when we don’t see them every day. What are your staff telling you about what works for them? Have they got the right equipment and resources to be able to work away from the office, bearing in mind DSE requirements and working space? How are you going to manage digital presenteeism and work-life balance? Do front line staff have appropriate peer support and places to come together to empathise and celebrate the tough times and success in sometimes very difficult jobs?

Equality, diversity and inclusion

New ways of working can offer opportunities to open up our jobs to a wider range of people who have different backgrounds, experiences and circumstances. However, with this diversity also comes the need to ensure that these new working practices are inclusive. It’s important to have ways of working that ensure that out of sight is not out of mind. Do you have a workforce strategy and work plans that provide fair access to work and career development? Do you understand how the different elements of your ways of working impact on your different staff? Do new ways of working create opportunities for all staff or just some? 

Smart working and technology
By this we mean the looking at the arrangements, logistics and equipment that would support new ways of working. There are a few very practical measures that need to be in place for more remote and dispersed working to succeed. Do you have the right devices and online workspace, collaboration tools, performance management systems and social and learning technologies needed to deliver a consistent experience across time and space, enabling employees to create the same value whether working on site or remotely? Are WIFI speeds sufficient to increase homebased working? Can offices be adapted to new ways of working that are potentially less desk-based and need more collaborative working space? 
The local government family is always focused on ensuring efficient use of public funds, and this also need to be a measure of any new ways of working adopted. It’s worth mapping out your project, plans and assumptions according in financial terms. Will different working patterns and locations save money or cost money? Do these changes impact on employee earnings? Will changes lead to the need for more workplace support in the home? Will there be savings in travel expenses? 
Governance and accountability
Clear accountability is also important for creating an effective remote working culture – if purpose is the big picture of why people’s work matters, accountability is the mechanism which defines how the work matters. We see that hybrid working means more, and more effective, communication and sharing of information, but have you defined how and when and who needs to communicate and who has access to different information? Do you know who is responsible for making decisions and at what point in the work or projects this should happen? How do you decide who needs to attend what meetings? Do your governance and reporting systems support more devolved decision making and agility?