With the rapid upsurge in demand for hybrid working, organisations should think about producing a written policy on how this will work in practice. The question is what should your hybrid working from home policy include?
Perhaps to answer this question it is worth considering what company policies are for – and why they are so important.
A company policy handbook sets out the standards of behaviour, conduct and performance expected from everyone in the organisation. It outlines what the business stands for and explains how a company’s values and mission are implemented. It also reminds employees of their responsibilities to the organisation.
A policy handbook is there to ensure the business and its employees are compliant with workplace laws. For example, it should include clear guidance on health and safety, and equal opportunities. It also serves as a set of rules, which become essential if, for instance, an employee pursues an unfair dismissal claim. In short, the handbook is a document that offers security to both the employer and the employee.
Is a hybrid working from home policy needed?
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) makes the point that offering an employee the option of working at home for some or all of the working week is a significant change to existing arrangements.
It states: “Organisations will need to give careful consideration to the contractual implications of hybrid working. Where employees make a formal request for hybrid working through a flexible working policy (and the request is accepted) this will amount to a formal change to terms and conditions of employment.”
Introducing a hybrid working model prompts many questions and blurred lines. Can an employee decide when and where they work? Are employees expected to attend meetings at the workplace? What equipment needs to be supplied for home working? What processes are in place if either party wishes to end the offer of hybrid working?
Legal firm Shoosmiths emphasises the absolute necessity for a hybrid working policy: “The lifting of restrictions and return to the office is an opportunity for employers to look at their business and determine how they can exploit the benefits of both working from home and remote working.
“However, as with all things in the world of employment law, setting out expectations in advance through a carefully drafted policy will help to ensure that those benefits are realised.”
What should be in a hybrid working from home policy?
Who is eligible?
Include a definition of who is eligible for hybrid working. Is it available to all employees or just those in particular roles? The definition is important as there may be people who would like to work from home but the business feels there is a need for them to be based in the workplace.
How can someone request hybrid working?
What are the procedures for requesting a change in working arrangements? Does an employee need to submit a written request to their line manager? Employees should know how the process works.
What are the boundaries?
The business should define just how flexible it wants to be when it comes to hybrid working. Is there a maximum number of days a week which can be worked at home? For instance, a business may wish for all employees to be in the office for at least two days a week.
The policy should state whether there is an expectation for people to come in for team or client meetings. It should also specify if notice is required for a meeting. It may be difficult for an employee to travel in at an hour’s notice if they have child care commitments, for example.
Is the business happy for an employee to work in a coffee shop or another venue away from the home and office? Are they allowed to work from another country? These questions should all be considered and confirmed.
How will a home working environment be set up?
The policy handbook should address the following questions: Will the business be providing home office equipment such as a workstation, ergonomic chair and a computer? What about Wi-Fi and telecoms? Who is responsible for the insurance for these items? Will the business be contributing towards the heating and lighting?
The employer is responsible for health and safety, so any required risk assessments will need to be documented in the policy.
What support will be offered?
Out of sight can mean out of mind. A business has a legal responsibility to look after its employees, but how can this be managed when people are working remotely?
A business should consider the following policies:
- Training employees on how to manage work-life balance when working at home
- Training on digital wellbeing and safety online
- Training for managers to help them spot signs of anxiety or stress among remote workers
- Regular employee surveys to gauge whether people are engaged or disconnected from the business
- Education on how to offer mental health support
How will performance be measured?
Introducing hybrid working may make it harder to assess productivity and performance and new methods of assessment may need to be introduced. These should be included in the hybrid policy. The handbook should detail how employees’ performance is measured.
If an employee is using a work laptop or is connected to a company’s virtual private network (VPN), there are ways an employer can monitor screen time and keystrokes. If monitoring software is being used, an employee should know that this is the case. Companies will need to consider whether this is a step too far – micromanaging is a poor motivator and such a policy doesn’t promote trust.
Can hybrid working be removed?
There is the possibility that hybrid working just doesn’t work for some businesses or employees. If an employee’s performance drops when working at home, the business may want to bring that person back into the workplace. The criteria for ending the option of hybrid working must be clear and fair.
Anything else to consider?
Businesses should spend some time reviewing all existing policies and thinking about whether any need to be updated.
For instance, if an employee receives a London Weighting payment, is this applicable when they work at home. There may be other benefits which no longer apply, or perks that can now be introduced, such as home deliveries of tea and coffee.
The way we work has changed and this means rules, procedures and policies must keep track. Company policies are designed to ensure there is clarity and protection for everyone. Don’t wait until something goes wrong!
Understanding what your employees need to be productive, wherever they are working, is key. WeThrive’s employee experience platform keeps everyone on the same page. Why not try our 2 minute demo now?
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