How to make hybrid working inclusive

Many organisations are planning returns to the office and rolling out newly-developed hybrid working models. New Work Foundation research finds that employees are generally keen to continue working remotely at least some of the time, with almost nine in ten workers we surveyed not wanting to return to pre-Covid working patterns. On average, they want to work remotely for up to three days per week.

Remote working is one form of flexible working, which can support disabled workers, women, parents and those with caring responsibilities to access employment and remain in the labour market, as well as helping to increase staff wellbeing, productivity and motivation. Furthermore, our research surfaced that men are now just as likely as women to say they want to work remotely at least one day a week, so it’s important that we as a society promote flexible working for everyone.

Individuals working in think tanks value flexible working. Respondents to Smart Thinking’s 2021 Employee Think Tank Survey ranked flexibility as the third most important factor they consider when looking for jobs – above training, job title and other benefits.

Furthermore, it is vital that think tanks reflect the breadth of perspectives and experiences within the UK.  Increasing the availability and uptake of flexible working arrangements is one way that employers in the sector can ensure attract and retain talent with a wide range of backgrounds.

However, our research indicates that without the right planning and support, this new model could present challenges for distinct worker groups. Here are some of our tips to make your think tank’s hybrid working model inclusive:

Consult with staff to develop an approach to remote and flexible work

Our research found that employees in organisations that have carried out consultations on remote working policies are more likely to:

  • be happy about their remote working arrangements than those in organisations that have not consulted staff (91% compared with 75%).
  • feel that decisions about who can work remotely are made fairly (75% compared with 57%).
  • believe that their organisation is inclusive of remote workers in its day to day operations (89% compared with 75%).

Consultation needs to be a continual process, particularly in the context of a shift to hybrid working that may involve some degree of experimentation, to enable employers to understand and respond to employees’ needs and preferences. This could involve regular information and feedback sessions, additional questions in staff surveys and engaging regularly with dedicated staff networks.

Consider introducing an organisational “right to disconnect” policy

Managers that we surveyed reported they were concerned that parents and carers in particular may end up working longer hours to make up for interrupted time, and that their training and professional development opportunities could be hampered by working from home.

Developed through consultation with staff and worker representatives, an internal right to disconnect policy would aim to establish a shared approach to work communications that supports workers to fully disengage from work outside of core hours and while on leave in a way that supports wellbeing and productivity.

Do not underestimate the power of role modelling behaviour

We found that where managers and leaders are supportive of remote working and work remotely themselves, workers feel more comfortable asking to work from home.

Ensure managers are equipped to manage hybrid teams

This could include a focus on capacity to support performance and wellbeing of workers who are working remotely, effective communication and appropriate use of technology to support collaboration.

By Heather Taylor (Work Foundation)

19 October 2021

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