These will include requests for hybrid working, which is a type of flexible working where an employee splits their time between the workplace and working remotely. Find out more about Acas' recent study.
Although it is not a new concept, after many employees have been forced to work from home during the pandemic, both employees and employers are reviewing what was beneficial about working from home arrangements, and what aspects they felt were detrimental to their lives and businesses.
We consider what employers should consider before adopting a hybrid working model on a more permanent basis.
Hybrid working can bring many benefits to both employers and employees, although every business and individual is different. For example, it can help to attract and retain a more diverse workforce, improve trust and working relationships, and increase productivity, job satisfaction and general wellbeing for some employees.
The Office for National Statistics has published findings on two surveys carried out between April - May 2021, the Business Insights and Conditions Survey, and the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey. The results of the surveys highlighted that, when asked about homeworking, working adults stated work-life balance was the greatest positive, however challenges of collaboration were the greatest negative.
More generally, the following examples are other potential negatives that have been identified as issues with working from home:
It may also pose specific difficulties when introducing new employees to organisations, assessing and managing performance and providing training and support for less experienced employees.
It is undeniable that more people (in relevant industries) are going to be considering hybrid working as a result of the experiences over the last year and a half, and it is therefore important that employers think carefully about how they will implement this, balancing the positives with the potential risks as identified above in a fair and consistent manner.
All employees have the legal right to request flexible working, which can include a request to work from home. If the employee has worked for an employer for at least 26 weeks, this will be treated as a statutory request and must be dealt with following the relevant statutory processes and principles.
Any flexible working request must be dealt with within a 3 month timeframe and in a 'reasonable manner,' which is likely to include:
A flexible working request that meets the statutory definition can only be refused for specified reasons. These are:
Further information on flexible working requests is available from the Government website.
Acas has recently provided useful hybrid working guidance to help employers to consider and manage the risks. It advises employers to:
It is important that employers also consider the needs of employees when hybrid working. This will involve considering whether any reasonable adjustments are needed, what their home working environment is and implementing measures to support employee's health, safety and wellbeing whilst they work remotely.
This has been highlighted in the recent The Right to Disconnect report from the Autonomy Thinktank which highlights the 'epidemic of hidden overtime' the coronavirus pandemic has caused due to the increasing expectation that employees are 'always on call' whilst working remotely. The report calls for new 'right to disconnect' laws in the UK in response to this, which would allow workers to maintain healthy boundaries between work and leisure and to be disconnected from work-based technologies during leisure hours.
Whether or not 'the right to disconnect' does in fact becomes a new legal requirement in the UK, employers should still consider the physical and emotional strain workers have been under since the beginning of the pandemic and whether hybrid working would help to alleviate or could potentially aggravate this strain.
If employers are looking to introduce hybrid working then they should also consider offering additional support for workers such as organised communication channels, workplace counselling, introducing mental health 'champions' in the workplace and implementing a stress and mental wellbeing at work policy to create a working environment which supports mental wellbeing.
Employers undoubtedly have a lot to think about when it comes to hybrid working. In particular it is recommended that the following steps are taken as a minimum.