Agile or hybrid working is not a new concept and many organisations pre-Covid have well-developed models.
The impact of Covid threw all organisations whether they were pro, anti, or on the fence about an agile workforce into the same boat. We did what all humans have done, adapt to the circumstances.
What is agile or hybrid working?
Agile or hybrid working are the most popular terms for describing a work model where effective productivity can be undertaken from a workplace, client location, the home, or at times remotely.
To ensure effective productivity agile working is underpinned by technology. When approaching your own model, you must be mindful that this is not a one size fits all approach, and that we may not get it right first time.
If you have been tasked with developing an agile work model the first area of consideration is how does your executive team view this and what is their appetite for it.
There is a fine balance to be struck between ensuring employees are happy, satisfied and motivated, and to ensure the organisation has the resources to do this effectively and can maintain expected productivity levels.
The good news is that most organisations have been practicing this since beginning of 2020 and demonstrating that it works.
If you can strike a right balance, then the benefits can be great. Benefits include:
- Attracting new talent and retaining existing talent.
- A more productive workforce.
- Building a culture based on trust and output.
However, if you are not able to strike that balance then those potential benefits become drawbacks:
- You won’t attract talent.
- Employees will consider more flexible competitors.
- Productivity may decrease.
- Culture will be based on time / bums on seats.
How to approach agile and hybrid working
To effectively approach agile and hybrid, teams should be given a policy or set of guidelines to enable them to make their own arrangements.
They worked out how to manage in a pandemic – they can be trusted them to make correct decisions in a post pandemic workplace.
The policy / guidelines will not be able to cover every situation within the workforce. It needs to be a guideline, so that each team can apply a methodology which is consistent and fair, but still considers on a case-by-case basis.
The best way to put this together is in consultation with the workforce, and if applicable their representatives. The more views that are heard the more likely you will have buy in. Don’t underestimate how important this topic is to the collective.
It is vital to keep open communication channels and promoting consultation around agile working.
Once policy / guidelines have been set then roles will need to be assessed to determine which model they will fit into: workplace based, home based or hybrid.
Enablers and barriers for agile working
In order for agile working to be effective we must give early consideration to the obvious enablers and barriers:
- Technology – this has been largely resolved during the pandemic, but we need to have easy access to the tools, information and be able to communicate to operate effectively.
- Trust – we hired people for a reason, lets trust them to deliver for us and if they happen to be most effective at 6am, or at 8pm so be it.
- Clear Expectations – don’t over complicate it but let people know what is expected of them.
- Pro-active management – managers have had to adapt to working from home, some have found it easier than others. The pandemic has needed managers to have extra tools in the their tool kit, some already had these, some have developed them and some have made little progress. Training and development needs must be considered so that all managers have these tools, and all are applying your guidelines consistently.
- Family – employees have different family situations and those with children have some responsibilities which will always come ahead of work. We must consider how work fits in with family rather than family fitting in with work.
- Working space – both at home and in the workplace, they will need to be adapted to fit your new model. Teams will miss the collaboration and innovation you can get from the workplace, which is hard to achieve virtually. So, consider adapting the workplace to enable more of this to happen.
- Boundaries – as people will be working different patterns, you need to set some boundaries. For example, if your manager is working evenings and you are receiving emails, there is no expectation to reply until you are back to work, allowing people to switch off when they need it most.
Employer obligations – risk assessment
Employers have a duty of care to look after the health, safety, and welfare of their employees and as a result must consider how this is impacted when operating an agile model.
Completing a risk profile will enable you to identify what hazards need to be considered.
Common ones include:
- Workstation – employers are responsible for their employees even when working from home. We must risk assess and determine what measures are required to reduce the risk. You may consider that until the measures are in place and can be demonstrated, agile working cannot be supported. A decision will need to be made around what equipment is provided for employees to use at home.
- Physical hazards – employees may have had guidance on what to consider whilst working from home. This will need to be refreshed and built into future training programmes.
- Mental health and wellbeing – a huge umbrella term which will impact all of your employees, some more than others. Managers need the tools to understand mental health and wellbeing and take a positive to approach to it. Many managers really want to support their teams but may simply not know how to start the conversation.
- Reasonable adjustments – must be considered not only in the workplace, but also in the home if an agile model is being considered.
Our agile working eLearning course course covers the main issues that an agile worker must consider, in terms of working safely wherever they are and offers practical advice on how to work safely and securely in all environments.