So much has changed over the last year, particularly with how employers have had to quickly adapt to new working arrangements. Yet what might have been seen as a huge challenge at the time, has in fact brought new opportunities. With businesses now focusing on rebuilding and looking to the future, this article looks at the potential business case for introducing a more flexible and hybrid working organisational culture.

This article is accompanied by our webinar recording, which you can watch On Demand.

Definition of flexible and hybrid working

First, we need to understand what we mean by flexible and hybrid working.

Flexible working is a way of working which allows an employee to hold employment that suits their personal needs. To date, it has typically taken the form of part time hours, job share, and even term time working. However, with the pandemic, flexible working has evolved, and we are now in an era where employers adopt a more hybrid form of working which still provides employees with employment that suits their personal needs.

Hybrid working can be described as a work practice which enables employees to blend working from different locations, such as home, the office, satellite sites, or even on the go. It enables both employers and employees to have greater flexibility with work location, which may also better suit the personal circumstances of the employees, although hybrid working will not be appropriate for everyone. 

There can be different forms of hybrid working:

  • Remote first: where the role operates fully remotely. Any attendance will be in the main head office/premises and is usually necessary when the job requires a physical presence.
  • Office – occasional: where the employee attends the office/premises occasionally but the main location for working is remote. The frequency of the employee’s attendance to the office/premises is usually agreed between the manager and the employee.
  • Office first, remote allowed: where the primary place of working is the office/premises, but remote working is allowed. The frequency of remote working is then agreed between the manager and employee.

With any form of hybrid working, it is important that it can meet the needs of the business, just as it has been the case for a more traditional flexible working arrangement. Some organisations have chosen to implement hybrid working as a standard practice across the business. However, where it is not standard practice, it is recommended that if an employee asks to work a more hybrid working arrangement, that you consider this request through your normal flexible working process. You may therefore want to either adapt your existing flexible working policy to acknowledge hybrid working, as well as adapt any existing home working policy to incorporate hybrid working or create a new policy. 

Is flexible/hybrid working a legal right?

The Employment Rights Act 1996 provides a statutory right for qualifying employees (have at least 26 weeks continuous service) to request flexible working. This can include a change relating to where they are required to work. So, to some extent, there is a legal right, but it is only a legal right to ask and not to have.  Employers can decline a request based on business grounds if at least one of the eight statutory reasons for refusal applies. 

However, in June 2021, a new Flexible Working Bill was introduced to parliament which proposes that all workers have a legal right to flexible working from day one of employment, rather than needing to have 26 weeks’ continuous service with an employer. The Bill, if passed, would require employers to include in job advertisements what flexibility is available as well as offer flexible working arrangements in employment contracts.

The benefits of flexible working

Legal responsibilities aside, flexible and hybrid working can bring many benefits to a business. 

It should be recognised that now, more than ever, flexible working can play a crucial role in businesses responding to and rebuilding after COVID-19. Adopting a flexible work culture is crucial at a time when employers need to adapt to a new business environment, hold on to staff, widen the talent pool in which to recruit the best talent and ultimately respond to changing business needs.

We know from research available, that businesses can make a number of gains through the introduction of flexible working. For example:

  • Increased morale and employee engagement
  • Increased employee retention
  • Improved productivity
  • Lead to greater business outcomes
  • Improved ability to recruit the best talent
  • Allows businesses to adapt and respond to changing business needs, particularly post COVID-19
  • Organisations may become more diverse and inclusive through expanding the talent pool by enabling access to talented individuals who may have previously been unable to apply, for example, due to inflexible set working hours or locations. Increased diversity can lead to the sharing of differing views and experiences amongst your workforce, which in turn can lead to greater creativity and productivity.

Get further information and guidance on the business case for flexible working by reading the full article here: https://www.hrsolutions-uk.com/the-business-case-for-hybrid-working/

Further HR Guidance