How to write a hybrid working policy for your small business
Hybrid working is a wonderful thing. There’s a reason why it’s stuck around even after the social distancing mandates of the pandemic.
A hybrid work model offers the best of both worlds: the in-person interaction of an office setting with the flexibility and freedom of remote work.
I understand that hybrid work is still very new territory for a lot of people though. That’s why I wanted to make this guide for you on how to make an effective hybrid work policy: one that balances the flexibility of remote work with the accountability of an office setting.
I’ve seen it work wonders here at Charlie. After you read this guide, you’ll see how it can work for you too.
The evolution of hybrid work at Charlie
Hybrid work is still a very divisive topic and people are still studying it. I think a good place to start is getting into how we’ve managed to make it work at Charlie.
At Charlie, we went from a full-time in-the-office model to a hybrid model during COVID-19. It worked beautifully during this testing period, so we stuck with it.
Three core values guide our transition to hybrid work:
- Structured flexibility: Remote work is a wonderful thing, but it needs to be guided by reasonable boundaries and rules. Our hybrid work policy should align with our business objectives as well as core values.
- Ownership: How we do hybrid work at Charlie enables our team members to take ownership of their work, including where and how they work, without having someone breathe down their neck.
- Belonging: In a mostly remote workplace, there needs to be ways to still connect with each other. That is key to a motivated workplace and to effective teamwork.
How can you implement structure without taking away your team members' autonomy? How do you give them space to take ownership of their work? How do you create that sense of belonging even when team members are working from their homes?
Those have been key questions for us, and you’ll need to ask them yourself too as you make your hybrid work policy.
To help you answer these questions, you can check out the Charlie hybrid work policy here below. It may give you some clever ideas on how to make yours.
Our hybrid working policy
Our approach to the office and remote work is hybrid-first.
We want everyone to have ownership over where they work and how they get their work done — we believe operating a hybrid-first model is the best way to achieve that. This will mean different things for different organisations, but our definition at Charlie is:
We aim to optimise for office and remote working to be valued equally, and to be equally valuable.
There are 3 ways of working that sit within hybrid-first. We cover off all 3 in this policy
- Office working
- Remote working (what we call working in the UK from anywhere that isn’t the office)
- Nomad working (what we call working outside of the UK in any timezone)
We always use our principle of structured flexibility to design our policies. We know this is particularly important when considering our hybrid-first policy for a few reasons:
- We want people to feel confident and clear how to take advantage of it
- Because we’ve chosen a hybrid-first approach, we need to make sure that our guidance for nomad working doesn’t have an unfairly negative impact on those who are office working or vice versa. It’s all about balance!
What’s our general approach to hybrid-first working at Charlie? ✨
We have no set number of days that you need to be in the office (most of the team plan to use the office on average 1-2 times/week) meaning you can work remotely most of the time if that’s what suits you (below this is broken down in a bit more detail).
Wherever you’re choosing to work from (remote or nomad working) must be an environment where you can work well (e.g. have minimal distractions, have good enough internet for collaboration etc.). If this isn’t the case we’ll ask that you book it off as holiday.
Our decision to not be fully remote is because we still strongly believe in the power of spending time together in person to foster a sense of belonging and to build meaningful relationships that allow us to do our jobs better.
This is why we still have two compulsory whole company meetups a year; these are booked in far in advance to make sure as many people as possible can attend.
We’d love for people to be there for them both, but are flexible for people to miss one if you are on holiday, nomad working, or if you’re a part-time worker and it falls on one of your non-working days.
We also encourage four or so Function meetups per year which will be organised on a more ad-hoc basis and allow your team to come together in person.
So how does remote working work?
As defined above, our definition of remote working is when you’re working anywhere from the UK that isn’t the office. This could be from home in London, from a cafe, other office locations, from Wales for a week, if you live in Edinburgh as your main home... You get the idea! You can work remotely as much as you like (aside from the company and function meetups listed above).
And how does nomad working work?
Nomad working at Charlie means working anywhere outside of the UK in any timezone. Everyone at Charlie has a nomad working allowance of 90 days per leave year.
Key components of an effective hybrid working policy
That’s all well and good, but what actually goes into your hybrid work policy?
There are a few general components I would advise you to put into your own hybrid working policy.
- Eligibility criteria: First of all, you should make decisions on who can opt for a hybrid role at your organisation. Are hybrid work options available to the whole team, or just select teams? Do you make it an incentive, or do you make it the default?
- Work hours, locations and availability: Then, you should define some terms and limits on when and how your hybrid workers will be present. Are there core hours when you expect everyone to be available? Are there set days when people are required to be in the office?
- Communication protocols: Just because your team members are working from home, doesn’t mean they can just disappear into the ether. You should spell out what tools are used for different types of communication, e.g. Slack for chats and instant messages, and Zoom for meetings.
- Performance metrics: The kinds of traditional KPIs that would be important in an office setting may not apply to a hybrid setting. I’d recommend focusing on productivity and measurable outcomes rather than raw work output.Creating such a hybrid work policy can be tricky, especially if you’ve never done it before. If you need some additional guidance, I or one of the other HR advisors at Charlie can assist you in making your policy in your bespoke company handbook. Just give us a call, and I’ll get you sorted.
Real-world examples of hybrid working policies
Still not convinced? I’d like to offer some real-world case studies of hybrid work in action, and look at some small businesses that have implemented their own hybrid work policy - for the better.
There are two different approaches you might take when making your hybrid work policy:
- Preset policies: This approach has more rigid rules, such as requiring employees to come into the office for a set number of days per week. This provides more structure but takes away flexibility.
- Flexible policies: A more flexible hybrid work policy will give your team more autonomy and ownership, but requires stronger rules surrounding communication to account for them.
Microsoft’s preset policy
At Microsoft, the hybrid work rules are clear. Employees have to be in the office a certain number of days per week. This approach offers structure and visibility and makes it easier for managers to guide team dynamics and in-person collaboration.
The downside is that it may not offer the flexibility that a lot of employees desire.
Patriot Software is a small business that offers payroll and accounting solutions.
Their hybrid work policy uses elements from both preset and flexible models. Employees have core hours they’re expected to be online but are free to choose when those hours are.
This approach offers a good balance of structure with flexibility. It’s also inclusive because it’s highly adaptable to different work schedules.
Doing things this way is a bit different though, and it may need a trial period to iron out the administrative kinks before you implement it company-wide.
Doist, a company that specializes in productivity solutions, has fully embraced remote work and allows its employees to work from anywhere. However, they also maintain a physical office for anyone who prefers to use it.
To minimize disruptions, they make use of asynchronous communication. People update on the go, and it keeps everyone on the same page.
This offers a high degree of flexibility that encourages creative solutions to problems and higher productivity. However, it also requires a high degree of discipline, and stronger boundaries between work and personal life.
Do you feel more ready to start your own hybrid work policy? The Charlie platform gives secure storage space for all your policies, including a working locations feature to manage your new hybrid team.
How to implement your hybrid working policy
Embracing the future of remote work with your own hybrid work policy is all well and jolly. How do you go about making one though?
Here are some steps you can follow to make your own:
1. Conduct an employee survey
Get the thoughts and insights from your boots on the ground. Find out about your team’s own preferences about hybrid work, and use anonymous surveys to collect feedback. You can use Charlie to build and run employee surveys in just a couple of clicks.
2. Draft the initial policy
Once you know what your team needs, you can craft your hybrid work policy to cater to them. Make sure that it aligns with your company values and business goals.
3. Review with legal and HR
Before you implement your policy, make sure you give it a slash and burn through the legal and HR departments to make sure everything’s in order, legally and logistically speaking. If you’re a small business with no legal or HR expertise at hand, you may find it easier and cheaper to get advice from one of our HR experts.
4. Communicate the policy
Let the word be known that you’re rolling out a hybrid work policy. Get it out on your internal newsletter, your team meetings and your internal platforms. Make sure everyone is aware of and understands it.
If you use HR software like Charlie, you can store all of your policies on the platform, making it super easy for everyone in the team to access them at any time.
5. Launch the pilot phase
Test the policy for a few weeks, a month, a few months, and see how you get on.
You may need to get feedback from your team members and make some adjustments where necessary.The Charlie working locations feature can help you track where your team members are working from. That way, as you launch your own hybrid work model, you can make sure all and sundry are accounted for and following the rules you laid out.
Common questions about hybrid working policies
Still have some unanswered lingering questions? I’d like to take a moment and address some common concerns when it comes to crafting and implementing hybrid working policies.
1. What are the legal considerations for implementing a hybrid working policy?
Employers are obligated to follow UK employment laws, including health and safety regulations, regardless of whether they have employees who come to the office or not.
The ACAS has guidelines on creating work-from-home and hybrid policies.
2. How can we track productivity in a hybrid work environment?
This one is a pretty common concern. Offering hybrid work options involves putting a lot of trust in your team.
I advise tracking performance metrics that focus on output and meaningful results rather than time spent working. Think of KPIs like project completion rates, client satisfaction scores, and other relevant metrics for a given role.
3. How do we ensure equitable access to career growth opportunities for all employees?
Getting that promotion your team member wants is a little more complicated when they can’t stop by the office and grease themselves up to the boss.
Create career development paths that outline a future path to growth. Make sure they are inclusive, and offer mentorship and training programs that can be done remotely. Think of using programs like LinkedIn Academy for skill training.
You can make hybrid work, work for you: download our hybrid working policy template
Having a hybrid working policy gives you the benefits of remote work while still keeping a reasonable measure of control and accountability. It’s having your cake and eating it too.
Ready to get started on making your own hybrid policy? Here, you can use this hybrid remote work policy template and customise it to fit your own business.