A huge proportion of British businesses remain undecided how to coordinate hybrid working according to new research. With the easing of final Covid restrictions in sight, and many firms expected to allow employees to work both from the workplace and at home, many companies risk legal and HR headaches unless they act.

46% of businesses say they’re still undecided how to coordinate a hybrid working approach across their workforce. This figure rises to 58% among large organisations with 150 or more employees.

The research, conducted with over 500 organisations by employment law and HR support firm Ellis Whittam, also identified that nearly a fifth of businesses (18%) haven’t consulted their staff about hybrid working.

“A lack of consultation could mean a ticking time bomb,” said James Tamm, Director of Legal Services at Ellis Whittam. “It may well create problems in terms of employees resisting contractual changes as well as general disputes. This could potentially even result in resignations from staff that don’t get their way.”

The research also found a greater lack of confidence amongst larger organisations when it comes to hybrid working. 71% of SMEs said they aren’t worried that the productivity levels they’ve seen during the past year may start to decline as people become accustomed to hybrid working. However, this falls to 61% of large organisations. More than three-quarters (77%) of respondents from SMEs believe their senior team fully supports hybrid working, whereas this dips to 69% for larger organisations.

James Tamm added: “Employers can’t be sure exactly when final Covid restrictions will be relaxed, but they can prepare their workforce for the ways of working that will best suit their organisation going forward. All businesses considering making hybrid working part of their normal working pattern must act now.”

James’s top five tips to ensure smooth introduction of hybrid working are:

  1. Document any contract changes and be specific how often you expect your employee(s) to attend the office.
  2. Check your policies are fit for purpose – for example absence, appraisal, disciplinary or performance management policies.
  3. Review confidentiality and data protection – revisit your data policy and consider doing a data impact assessment for hybrid working.
  4. Consider implementing a trial period if you are not sure how successful the arrangement will be. The Flexible Working Procedure requires an employer to tell employees their decision within three months.
  5. Seek agreement before introducing a company-wide approach and remember, your decisions mustn’t discriminate, for example toward female employees who request hybrid working because they are primary carers for their children or elderly parents. If you want to impose hybrid working via a contractual change, you’ll likely need to seek agreement with your employees. For many organisations, hybrid working is a largely untested area, and there are many practical, legal and HR implications to consider, so take legal advice where needed.

 

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.