There are many business leaders that will have heard of hybrid working and will be acutely aware of the benefits it brings about. But they may be less clear on how to implement such a model and how to overcome some of the perceived challenges that come with it.
In this article, we explain how to ask for a hybrid working pattern, if your business hasn’t embraced it thus far. We also highlight some of the central concerns around hybrid working (so that these can be combated) and provide our top tips on how to build an effective hybrid work model.
How do I ask for a hybrid work schedule?
If you’re working within a HR or finance team, you may want to ask your manager whether it’s possible to switch to a hybrid work schedule. Here are a few tips for making a compelling case:
The first thing is to be prepared and know exactly what you want to say. It’s also key to think about who you’re talking to. Using finance managers as an example, they tend to be more responsive to numbers and concrete facts. So, in this scenario, it would be best to come along with stats that support your narrative. It’s also wise to predict some of their counterarguments, so that you’re ready to deal with these. Even the timing of the conversation could be determined tactically.
Demonstrate the importance
Don’t be sparing when it comes to highlighting how much this means to you personally. If you think a hybrid schedule will have a profound impact on both your health/wellbeing and your productivity, you should ensure this comes across. Be sure to mention specific improvements you can envisage, not just to your own work/life balance, but to the quality of your output too. This kind of approach can be especially effective if you’re dealing with a manager who prides themselves on being more personable (rather than analytical).
Propose a trial run
A good way to progress any sales pitch is to suggest a trial run. If the manager in question is hesitant, you could suggest a one week or one month trial period, in which time you can put all your energy into proving that better results can be achieved when you have a hybrid schedule. Decision makers are more likely to say yes to a trial as it feels less permanent. And it’s much easier to convince managers to keep the new system in place once it’s up and running.
You should be as specific as possible when making your proposal. This means stating the exact schedule you’d like to implement (including how many days will be spent at home, and how many will be spent in the office). If all the finer details have been ironed out, and the manager simply needs to give the green light, they’re far more likely to say yes, as there’s minimal effort involved from their end. It also makes the idea less abstract if the employer can imagine exactly what it will be like. To get the ball rolling, send your manager a meeting invite and provide an agenda ahead of time.
The final thing to remember is to be realistic. If you work in a role that isn’t suited to hybrid working (such as a customer-facing role), it may simply not be rational to make this request. Or at the very least you could make a less ambitious proposal, such as suggesting one day a week at home to complete administrative tasks.
What are some concerns around hybrid working?
The following factors should be considered and counteracted to implement hybrid working successfully:
Lack of trust
Managers within finance and HR may struggle to trust their remote workers if they can’t see what they’re doing. In reaction to this, they may end up micromanaging, and using overbearing tactics to monitor their team. This is, however, completely counterintuitive, as it gives employees less freedom than they had before. A lack of trust can be bad for relationships, productivity, and self-esteem. Employees will likely feel that the manager doesn’t believe in their ability to work independently. And constant requests for status updates will disrupt their workflow.
Despite these trust issues, it is widely believed that employees have actually been working harder since the shift to remote working, which in itself creates another kind of challenge. With no clear division between the work and home environment, some can end up working late into the night, which can lead to burnout. If they’re constantly overworking themselves, it’s likely that the quality of their work will decline, as they’re not getting a proper chance to rest. Managers should actively encourage workers to log off at set times, so that they can recharge in the evening.
There’s also a risk of divisions forming between remote workers and office workers, both in terms of how they interact with one another, and how they’re viewed by managers. Office workers are more likely to receive preferential treatment and gain better career opportunities simply because they’re in plain sight. Whereas remote workers will be seen to have a better lifestyle due to the home comforts. If hybrid working isn’t permitted across the board, or allocated in a consistent manner, many could feel hard done by.
Chaotic work environment
If not planned for in a thorough enough manner, the implementation of hybrid working could lead to a chaotic work environment, simply because of all the moving parts involved with the hybrid approach. Even though it’s an adjustable model, it should still exist within some form of structure. When determining the details of a person’s working week, the people they work closely with should be considered (including their manager), so that they’re always capable of collaborating with one another. The optimal routine should be figured out based on their location and the type of work they do.
For those working mostly at home, isolation can be a very real problem. If they don’t have the social outlet of the office, it can be tough, particularly for those living alone. Without a way of connecting with colleagues it could be impossible for these people to join in with projects that require a group effort. In this scenario, separate teams and departments could become more siloed, denying them the chance to build bonds that could otherwise be fruitful.
There are some costs that may become unnecessary once the switch from traditional working to hybrid working has been completed. If these costs are ignored, they will create an inefficiency around spend. It’s important to analyse what can be scaled back once these changes have occurred. For example, a business may still be using a large office space in a prime location despite a reduction in attendance. In this case, exorbitant rental fees could be avoided by downsizing or relocating.
How to prepare your business for hybrid working
There are a range of hybrid work models that are utilised by different businesses. Some place importance on being in the office more often, whereas others lean towards home working. Some give their employees complete flexibility, whereas others take a more assertive approach. One company might roll out a single model for the entire organisation, while another will let individual managers choose for their teams. The type of work their business does should be considered when making these choices.
Create a thorough policy
Every hybrid work model that is used should be based on an underlying policy. This must be as detailed as possible, so that employees know when they’re expected to be in each location. The policy should minimise confusion by providing general guidance. It should be easily accessible by all (including new starters) and will ideally be redistributed every time it changes. Managers can serve as a central point of contact for any related matters, so that workers can voice concerns they may have.
How to successfully implement hybrid working
Treat all employees equally
Office working and remote working both come with pros and cons. It’s important that employees are treated fairly, regardless of their location. Those working remotely could be sent the occasional gift or voucher (if workers in the office are receiving these benefits). The business could organise regular social activities too, so that everybody has a chance to build better work relationships. Managers must make a conscious effort to eradicate exclusion, by giving all workers the opportunity to attend meetings, join projects, and apply for new roles.
Utilise better communication tools
With a workforce that is geographically spread out, it can be more difficult to communicate, and to coordinate joint work. Therefore, it’s crucial to find better ways of staying in touch. Employees need the ability to contact one another in real time, to stand a chance of being optimally productive. Thankfully, there’s now an abundance of technology that makes this possible. You should look to adopt a messaging service, such as Microsoft Teams, to enable instant communication and virtual meetings. By making this the default approach for all meetings, it ensures all employees are included.
Head to the cloud
On top of communication, staff will also need the ability to complete their daily tasks remotely. This can be achieved by using Cloud-based systems. In contrast to on-premise software (which is installed locally), Cloud-based solutions are accessed online, meaning that employees simply need an internet connection to work. Regardless of whether they’re at home, in a café, on the road, or with a client, HR and finance workers are able to keep their most important data updated at all times. And these systems have the bonus of being more secure from cybersecurity threats too.
Individuals should receive training for any changes they will be facing around their work pattern/style. The switch to hybrid can be substantial, so failing to arrange this training could lead to a downturn in productivity. Employees should be well-versed with any new technological tools they’ll need to use, so that they can hit the ground running when hybrid is implemented. They’ll perhaps also need to sharpen up on some of their soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, and presentation skills (to name a few), as these will all have a different feel in the virtual space.
Relaxed management style
This is not to say that individuals shouldn’t be held accountable for their responsibilities. It simply means leaders shouldn’t fall into the traps we discussed earlier (such as micromanagement and invasive monitoring tactics). If the recruitment process is of a high standard, and the correct characteristics are prioritised during selection, it shouldn’t be a problem trusting people to fulfil their role. Of course, there can be occasional catchups during the week, to keep everyone in sync and to monitor performance. But there’s no need to track every second of a worker’s day. A manger should be in place to lend support and provide direction, not to influence every minor action.
Which Cloud-based software can help with hybrid working?
At Advanced, we provide the Advanced Financials and Advanced HR software solutions, which are perfect for HR teams and finance teams that are looking to shift to hybrid working. With functionality around accounts payable/receivable, invoicing, purchasing, annual leave management, appraisals, and absence management, these Cloud-based systems make it possible to complete tasks both at home and in the office.
They also both integrate with our transformative MyWorkplace platform. MyWorkplace is essentially a virtual workplace that brings together snippets of functionality from all the different systems you use, on one screen. This means that there’s just a single sign-on to access anything you need to do on any given day. Many repetitive tasks become automated, and there’s a clear view of the most pressing objectives for the day ahead.
If you’re looking to implement a hybrid work model for your business, be sure to read more about our game changing MyWorkplace platform, which significantly enhances productivity, collaboration, task management, data insights, and overall efficiency (for both office and remote workers).