Wellbeing Blog - HR Delivered

Navigating Remote and Hybrid Working

One of the biggest challenges facing SME business owners currently is navigating the minefield that is remote and hybrid work. In most cases there is a desire to support employees and make it work, however, how to ensure the work gets done and is fair and consistent for all the workforce is causing leaders a lot of pain!

What is clear is that employees are demanding more flexibility. A CIPD (2023) report on flexible and hybrid working practices highlights that 6% of employees left their jobs due to a lack of flexible working, and 12% changed careers for the same reason. This translates to nearly 2 million and 4 million workers in the UK, respectively. These numbers have increased from 4% and 9% in the previous year.

Transitioning to remote or hybrid working can benefit SMEs significantly, but it requires careful planning, communication, and execution. By understanding the benefits and challenges, developing a clear policy, equipping your team with the right tools, fostering a strong culture, supporting parents, providing training, and continuously monitoring your approach, your company can successfully navigate the remote and hybrid work landscape.

What Does It Mean to Work Remotely?

Remote working means working outside the traditional office setting. It’s integral to modern flexible work arrangements and is a highly valued employee benefit. Advanced technology enables remote work, allowing employees to work from home, or various other locations such as coffee shops, sofas, or co-working spaces, offering flexibility and convenience.

What Is Hybrid Working?

Hybrid working blends home and office environments, providing flexibility like remote work. It combines the advantages of both settings, allowing employees greater control over their work location and schedule, whilst allowing for face-to-face collaboration in the workplace

A CIPD (2023) report states that employers are divided on whether there is pressure for employees to spend more time in the workplace:

  • 40% of employers say there is significant pressure for employees to spend more time in the workplace.
  • 48% say there is little to no pressure.

Among those experiencing pressure, 56% say it comes from senior leaders, with reasons including improved connections and relationships (57%), better in-person collaboration (55%), and increased engagement (47%).

Understand the Benefits and Challenges

Benefits:

Increased flexibility in remote and hybrid working models allows employees to better balance their work and personal lives, leading to higher job satisfaction and retention. According to an ONS 2022 report, 78% of those working from home reported improved work-life balance, 52% noted quicker task completion, and 47% experienced improved well-being.

Additionally, offering remote work options enables SMEs to tap into a wider talent pool, attracting skilled professionals from various geographic locations without the constraints of proximity to the office. This can lead to a more diverse and capable workforce.

Cost savings are another significant benefit for companies. The reduced need for office space and related expenses, such as utilities and maintenance, can lead to substantial financial savings. These resources can then be reallocated to other critical areas, such as employee development, technology investments, or business growth initiatives.

By implementing flexible working arrangements, companies can enjoy enhanced employee satisfaction, increased retention and an improvement in recruiting top talent .

Challenges:

Remote and hybrid working models present several challenges that businesses must address to ensure success. Ensuring seamless communication and collaboration with a dispersed team requires integrating these aspects into the business operations plan with ongoing review mechanisms. Effective communication tools and regular check-ins are essential to maintain clarity and cohesion among team members. Keeping remote employees engaged and integrated into the company culture requires intentional, ongoing effort. This can include virtual social activities, recognition programs, and regular updates on company news and initiatives to keep everyone connected and involved.

Tracking productivity and performance without micromanaging can be challenging. While tools that monitor keystrokes or activity can provide insights, they will undermine trust and create a sense of being micromanaged. It’s crucial to focus on outcomes and deliverables rather than constant monitoring. Setting clear goals and expectations, along with regular feedback sessions, can help manage performance effectively without eroding trust. By addressing these challenges through planning and thoughtful implementation, companies can create a supportive and productive remote or hybrid work environment.

Parents Working from Home

One of the big challenges facing employers is when parents working from home are also providing childcare for young children or babies. While having a 10-year-old in the house during the school holidays or on an odd sick day is probably manageable, caring for pre school children is virtually impossible if trying to work as well, however this can be the case. It is essential for employers to be clear on the boundaries regarding parents working from home, as the distraction of children or babies can be unfair to the child and impact the employee’s well being, performance and role within the company, which can lead to an impact on company performance.  By setting clear and defined boundaries, employers can create a more supportive and productive work environment for parents working from home, allowing everyone to know where they stand.

Develop a Clear Remote/Hybrid Work Policy

Establishing a clear remote or hybrid work policy is key. This policy should define eligibility criteria by specifying which roles are suitable for remote or hybrid work and providing a detailed process for applying. Work schedules should be clear, including expected working hours and availability, and employees should be held accountable to their agreed working patterns. Performance metrics outlined to specify how performance is measured and evaluated, ensuring transparency and fairness.

Employers have the right to decline requests for remote or hybrid work based on operational needs and business objectives. Justifications for these decisions ensure fairness and consistency, supporting a collaborative work environment whereby both the company and employee needs are balanced effectively.

Additionally, robust data security protocols should be in place to protect company data, maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of sensitive information. By developing a comprehensive policy, companies can create a structured and effective remote or hybrid work environment, whereby both parties understand how they will approach remote or hybrid work.

Equip Your Team with the Right Tools and Training

To successfully navigate remote and hybrid working, it’s crucial to equip your team with the right tools, provide adequate training and support. Employers should invest in reliable technology to facilitate remote work. Essential tools include communication platforms like Microsoft Teams or Slack, for seamless communication; project management software such as Asana or Trello, to track tasks and projects; and cloud storage solutions like Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive for easy file sharing and collaboration. Additionally, ensure that remote and hybrid workers are included in your risk assessment to address any safety and Display Screen Equipment (DSE) compliance issues.

Equipping your managers and employees with the necessary skills is equally important. Offer training on effective communication techniques to ensure clear and concise interactions in a remote setting. Provide strategies for time management to help employees stay productive and maintain their work-life balance. Enhance their tech proficiency by offering training on the tools and platforms used by your team. By investing in the right tools and providing targeted training, you can create a supportive and efficient remote or hybrid work environment.

Company Culture

Maintaining a strong company culture is vital, even in a remote or hybrid setup, as it fosters employee engagement, loyalty, and productivity. To achieve this, companies should implement several strategies.

Scheduling regular check-ins through frequent team meetings and one-on-ones to stay connected and ensure everyone feels included and informed. This consistent communication helps to maintain alignment and address any concerns promptly. Ensure that there is time and focus on social activities that are authentically aligned with your culture.  These activities can mitigate feelings of isolation, strengthen team bonds, and promote a sense of community among remote employees.

Implement recognition programs to celebrate achievements and milestones, boosting morale and motivation. Recognising employees’ hard work and accomplishments can lead to increased job satisfaction and retention.

By maintaining a strong company culture, companies can enjoy several benefits. A cohesive culture enhances collaboration and innovation, as employees feel more comfortable sharing ideas and working together. It also attracts and retains top talent, as prospective employees are often drawn to companies with a positive and inclusive culture. Furthermore, a strong culture can improve overall business performance by fostering a committed and motivated workforce.

If your business is navigating the complexities of remote or hybrid working and you need pragmatic guidance, we’re here to help. Reach out to us today to learn how we can support your transition to a successful remote or hybrid work model.

Together, lets harness the power of employment law changes to drive positive change. If you’d like to discuss this article and learn how HR Delivered can advise you on employment law changes, EDI, talent acquisition, recruitment, and other critical business win themes, get in touch today.

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