As the easing of lockdown measures continue and each set of targets are met, the UK remains on course to return to life as ‘normal’ by midsummer’s day - 21st June. Whilst this may still seem some way off, it does give time to reflect, consider and plan for inevitable changes in workplace requirements for employers and their employees.
As seen repeatedly in recent months, many large organisations have already acted decisively in this respect and have concluded that to a lesser or greater extent, employees working from home, is the future. For many of these organisations, the new structure will see some employees working full time in the office, some working full time from home and others working a hybrid model. As mentioned in previous articles, for many organisations one of the primary reasons for this new approach is the potential for improved profits through reduced costs and increased productivity levels.
However, in respect of many small to medium size organisations, whilst some have strategically taken similar decisive steps, many have fallen into this alternative working practice almost by default. Due to the various lockdown measures over the past year, a WFH working practice has been adopted that has ‘done the job’ in the short term but if this is to be sustainable long term and thereby profitable, there is much that needs considering.
Assuming the decision has been taken that a hybrid working model in theory is an appropriate practice for an organisation, it needs establishing how this can be implemented in practice.
Whether fulltime or hybrid WFH, the home working zone should be considered an extension to the workplace, almost like a satellite office. Doing so will help ensure that many of the usual conventional office requirement’s services and products are catered for such as Human Resources, IT Systems, Services & Equipment, Communication Systems, Health & Safety, Office Equipment and Health & Wellbeing. However, without due consideration of 3 key fundamental elements that underpin these, fulltime or hybrid WFH will fail or at the very best, become costly.
Hybrid Working Fact: Nationwide to enable 13,000 employees to WFH or Hybrid WFH permanently. In a survey conducted by the building society, they found that 57% of employees wanted to WFH fulltime and 36% wanted to adopt a hybrid WFH model.
Core Company Values of a Hybrid WFH Working Model
These 3 fundamental elements could in essence be considered as Core Company Values, values that perhaps previously existed on a subconscious level but were never elevated to a level of such importance as now. These being Trust, Flexibility and Connectivity.
Trust - For a hybrid WFH working practice to be adopted successfully, due to the high level of autonomy necessary, there needs to be considerable elements of mutual trust between an organisation and its employees. Through hybrid WFH, the organisation is enabling the employee to carry out their duties in an environment that should yield many personal health, wellbeing and financial benefits. To enable these duties to be performed efficiently, the employee needs to trust the organisation will provide the most appropriate:
- equipment and systems for their job role
- level of technical and emotional support
- project or company resources
- training requirements
- type of communication channels
- level of management support
This degree of trust requires a high level of commitment by the organisation but it should empower the employee, making them feel more confident in themselves and in their work. However as mentioned above, this trust must be based on mutuality and so in return, the employee will be committed and entrusted to deliver their job responsibilities efficiently, independently and with diligence.
Flexibility - Much like ‘trust’, flexibility is a two-way street and is integral to a successful hybrid WFH working plan.
Whenever employees are working from home, it must be recognised that the old rules of engagement no longer exist and their work life is not dictated by the day to day goings-on within the 4 walls of the office. Whilst much can be done to develop a calm, work focused WFH zone, there will inevitably be interruptions and distractions of which some will be planned, like taking the dog for a walk, taking an hour out to cut the lawn or taking time out to see the kids in a school play (perhaps for the first time ever!), and others that are unplanned, like unexpected visitors, needing to arrange for an emergency plumber or taking time out to have a car puncture repaired.
Recognising the need for flexibility to accommodate such elements is important as in return, the employee is more likely to show flexibility in ensuring required tasks are undertaken and concluded by required deadlines by utilising some of the new found ‘non-commute’ time now available to them. This is where task based deadlines as opposed to time based deadline (how long it takes to complete the job) become important. So, if time-out of the office is needed during the standard 9 to 5 hours, they show flexibility to complete the task during other times of the day or weekend.
Connectivity - Within the conventional office environment, everyone is connected in a work and a socially related capacity. This connectivity is conscious and subconscious and exist between peers, superiors and subordinates. It involves official meetings, water cooler moments, reviews and appraisals, general banter, training, key milestone celebrations and numerous other interactions.
People have an innate need for social and mental interaction and for some employees, the hybrid WFH approach may provide sufficient conventional interaction on the days they attend the office but for others where visits may be restricted to one or two days a week or every fortnight, this is unlikely to be enough. Therefore, quality connectivity is vital for without it, employees can feel isolated, undervalued and develop a fear of missing out, ultimately leading to disillusionment.
From the organisation’s perspective, it is equally as important to develop quality connectivity with the employee’s when WFH. Indeed it presents an opportunity to perhaps develop even better links through creating communication channels to:
- obtain project or work updates
- understand work challenges and issues
- become aware of personal health and wellbeing problems
- establish where enhancements can be made to improve their WFH experience
- enable social connectivity for non-work related dialogue
With each employee being on differing ‘in-office’ work patterns, the strength and quality of this connectivity will be key for both parties.
In summary, there are many aspects to consider when converting to a hybrid WFH workplace model but by adding or enhancing the 3 core business principles of Trust, Flexibility and Connectivity, the foundations can be laid for a long and successful employer-employee relationship.
The WFH Zone is the UK’s first online portal designed to assist organisations and individuals in the process of setting up to work from home (WFH) on a full time or hybrid basis, in the most cost effective and ethical way. Our service helps employers and employees find quality suppliers of a range of Services and Products specifically associated with a work from home zone.