The first in our series of articles exploring hybrid working looks at how formalising hybrid working principles will minimise problems and ensure that cyber security is maintained
Many charities are looking to retain some of the hybrid working practices that were introduced as emergency measures last year, enabling staff to split working time between the office and their homes on a permanent basis.
If your charity is planning to continue with hybrid working, the time has come to consider formalising this type of working practice. This will allow both your charity and its staff know exactly what hybrid working will involve going forward, what support your staff can expect from your charity, and what will be expected of them.
It may seem obvious, but it is important to provide a definition of what you mean by hybrid working. This is likely to be some form of work routine involving a combination of remote working (probably from a home office) and working in your charity’s offices.
It is important that you make a distinction between hybrid working and flexible working, which is defined by the UK government as “a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, for example having flexible start and finish times, or working from home.”
That’s because any employee who has worked for your charity for at least 26 weeks is entitled by law to request flexible working – something known as a statutory application – and for the request to be dealt with in a reasonable manner.
Being explicit about how hybrid working will operate in your charity is important so that both your charity and charity staff understand the mix between remote and office working. For example, your charity may decide that hybrid working should involve working two days a week at home, and three days a week in the office.
It may be that office working days are fixed, perhaps to ensure that there is always sufficient staff in the office every day, or it may be that staff, or staff in certain roles, can choose different days to work at home every week.
It is also useful to make it clear if staff can be required to work in the office during certain periods – to work on specific annual fundraising campaigns or to attend training programs, for example. This may not have been relevant during the height of the pandemic, but it is important to establish these sorts of requirements as hybrid work practices are formalised.
In the same way that some charity roles may not be suitable for flexible working, it may be that some may not be suitable for hybrid working either. For example, it is probably not possible for staff working at a charity store to carry out their duties from home.
For those roles that you decide are not suitable for hybrid working it is a good idea to explain the rationale for your decision so that affected staff understand why they are ineligible.
Staff working at home are, by definition, at their work place whenever they are at home. But it is important to establish the hours when staff are expected to be available for work – either in terms of a number of hours, or the precise times when they are “on duty”. Staff should have an opportunity to specify any times that they may be unavailable, for example to take children to school or to walk a dog.
It can be helpful to formalise other aspects of hybrid working, such as dress codes during work hours (or dress codes which only apply during video conferences, for example), contributions that your charity will make to costs such as hybrid workers’ internet connections or phone costs, and sickness reporting mechanisms.
Cyber security is extremely important for hybrid workers, and the best way to ensure that all necessary measures are in place is to specify exactly what is required.
This may include the installation of specific endpoint security software on any laptops or desktop computers used for hybrid working, the use of a VPN when connecting to your charity’s network from home, and the need for charity-owned computer hardware to be used exclusively for work purposes, by the charity worker only.
Many organisations that introduce hybrid working are able to reduce their costs by reducing the amount of office space they rent. So it is important to inform hybrid workers about any changes to your charity’s office environment that you may be planning to make.
In particular, you should inform them if you intend to introduce “hotdesking”, and what this will entail. For example, if staff are expected to use any free desk when they come in to the office they may also be required to tidy up their belongings or remove them from the desk when they leave the office.
You should also inform them about any changes to office hours, and any new COVID-19 safety measures, such as the mandatory wearing of masks that need to be adhered to when working back in the office.