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Hybrid working – the benefits and drawbacks for employers

Monday 25 October 2021

As businesses consider a permanent shift to hybrid or remote working, we weigh up the pros and cons and take a look at practical and legal issues to consider.

Hybrid working is the term now being used to describe a working pattern which combines workplace based working with the ability to work remotely. At its most basic level it could include normal workplace based working but with an ability to work from home occasionally. At the other end of the spectrum is entirely remote working with employees based permanently from home.


On the face of it, hybrid working seems to offer the best of both worlds. It offers the flexibility which many employees now expect having worked from home extensively during lockdowns. However, it also offers the opportunity for face to face collaboration and social and team interaction which helps to reduce the feelings of loneliness and isolation felt by many during lockdown. Benefits of hybrid working include: 

  • Wider Talent Pool – released from the requirements of only considering job applicants who live within reasonable travel distance from the workplace, hybrid working creates the possibility of recruiting people who need only come to the workplace occasionally or sometimes never, for example those who work 100 percent remotely.  This creates a much larger talent pool geographically, potentially opening up a global talent pool.  In addition, the flexibility that hybrid working creates will open up working opportunities to others such as working parents, carers and others for whom daily travel and being away from home would be a barrier.
  • Increased Productivity – opinion is divided about whether hybrid working leads to increased productivity but many suggest that productivity has increased as a result of hybrid working. The lack of (or reduced) commute will contribute to productivity of workers who can use this time to work. Additionally, data from the Office for National Statistics shows that workers in remote or hybrid arrangements worked on average 2.4 hours more unpaid overtime per week.
  • Fewer Absences – Recent data from the Office for National Statistics shows that the sickness absence rate for workers working from home (in remote or hybrid arrangements) was 0.9% as compared to 2.2% from workers working in the workplace.
  • Workforce Diversity – many workers who make flexible working requests or respond to job adverts mentioning flexible working are women, disabled, or older. This means that having remote or hybrid arrangements can allow employers to maintain a diverse workforce.
  • Reduced Overhead – employers with remote or hybrid working arrangements may be able to reduce their costs by downsizing office space or leaving ‘the office’ altogether and relying on shared working spaces if a physical presence is required.

With benefits, come drawbacks. For some employers, hybrid working is a step into the unknown, with some fearsome of the consequences that this newfound freedom will bring.  Some employers are reluctant to fully embrace hybrid working preferring to agree limited home working patterns on an individual basis.  Some of the drawbacks of hybrid working include:

  • Legal issues – moving over to hybrid or remote working creates legal issues that must be considered. These include the extent to which changed working arrangements require the individual agreement of employees, whether legal duties to consult with workers and, potentially, trade unions are triggered, how individual employment contracts and HR policies should be amended, and how tax, social security and local employment laws impact for those remote workers now working overseas.
  • New polices and procedures – With a newly engaged hybrid workforce employers will need to consider how their policies and benefits packages will need to be changed.  Will existing pay and benefits packages remain appropriate for those employees now working predominantly from home? How should job offers and benefits packages now be structured?  Are employees entitled to be paid expenses in relation to their occasional travel to a workplace?  What changes are needed to existing flexible working, sickness absence, disciplinary and grievance policies?  
  • Regulatory Requirements – there is a risk that the employer will be unable to satisfy their industry regulator’s requirements to provide certain services. For example, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has recently announced that they have ‘expectations’ of firms operating remote or hybrid working arrangements. These expectations include that the remote working arrangement must be unlikely to cause any detriment to customers or the integrity of the market. The FCA has announced that it will evaluate remote or hybrid working arrangements on a case-by-case basis. Other industry regulators may follow suit.   Irrespective of industry regulation employers will wish to consider what effect remote working is likely to have on customer service, and the ability of employees to be effectively supervised and trained.
  • Career progression and training – Recent data from the Office for National Statistics indicates that workers working exclusively from home are less likely to receive a promotion, receive bonuses, and receive training. Others have expressed concerns that employees working from home will receive less pay. This creates the risk of a divided workforce and the risk of indirect discrimination claims if the majority of workers working remotely are from particular groups such as female or older workers. Employers may also struggle to find effective ways to appraise their staff who are working remotely. Employers and managers will have to find new ways to ensure they are providing adequate training and oversight to their employees (especially younger workers who may not benefit from learning on-the-job) – some may find hybrid working, with on-site training days and appraisals, to be better than entirely remote working.
  • Worsening Mental Health – As discussed in a recent blog, remote working can impact wellbeing. It may lead to isolation. In a recent study the Royal Society of Public Health found that 67% of homeworkers felt less connected to their team and 46.5% felt isolated, however only 34% had been offered mental health support. Feelings of isolation will not only have an impact on productivity and absence, but can also lead to increased prevalence of mental health issues affecting employees.

If you would like to discuss how your business can prepare for a transition to remote or hybrid working or how to deal with any of the legal issues that this may bring please contact Lee Jefcott or your usual Brabners Employment team contact.

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