The new age of hybrid working, by Dean Terry, HR & Legal Consultant

2 July 2021 | Dean Terry, Consultant - HR, Talent & Legal

 
At the beginning of this new era, how can employers ensure they are meeting their obligations, getting the best from their teams and continuing to nurture inclusion?

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 From the conversations I have had over the past 18 months, it seems private markets professionals adapted brilliantly to remote working. I have chatted over video calls with HR Managers in bedrooms and General Counsels at kitchen tables as the alternative assets market has continued to thrive.

Right now, some of you will be reading this on your commute into the office while witnessing the gentle reawakening of our cities. However, not everyone is rushing to catch the 8:15 train. We’re at a turning point and speculation about the future of the office 9 to 5 is rife.

In a survey conducted by PER, 60% told us they are currently dividing their time between remote working and office-based working and 85% said they expect to be working remotely for at least one day per week in 2022. Moreover, in a LinkedIn poll, 62% said that they wouldn’t apply for jobs at firms that did not offer remote working.

Hybrid working is certainly an expectation of the workforce but do employers know what their obligations and rights are amid this unprecedented shake-up of working culture? Ahead of our BVCA HR Series Webinar, we’ve put together a list of considerations and questions that employers and HR professionals will be addressing in the coming weeks and months.

A panel of experts including our Founder Gail McManus and employment law specialists from our event partners CM Murray, will explore these issues in depth during a one-hour webinar on Wednesday 8th July. If you are a BVCA member, you can  register for the event here.

WERE RULES MADE TO BE FLEXIBLE?

I doubt there were many among us who didn’t sneak in an episode of Tiger King during lunch at the height of the pandemic. However, more regulation may be required going forwards.

How can managers monitor attendance, punctuality and productivity among remote workers? Is there a danger that enforcement of such rules would damage working relationships?

Will it be possible to mandate a minimum number of days’ attendance in the office and will such decrees apply to all team members regardless of seniority?

WHEREVER I ACCESS WIFI (THAT’S MY OFFICE?)

While tech brands would like you to believe that we’ve been released from the shackles of humdrum office desks and wires, there are health and safety obligations to consider. Will employers be responsible for chair height, screen position and posture in the remote working environment?

What about remote working environments that aren’t suitable due to poor broadband connections or concerns around data security and client confidentiality? Are remote working locations going to be vetted? And can employers refuse permission to remote work if they deem the premises to be unsuitable?

Before the pandemic, remote working agreements came with a lot of paperwork, not least agreements from landlords and mortgage providers for the premises to be used as offices. Will all this paperwork be necessary in future?

IT’S GOOD TO TALK

Communication is the cornerstone of good management and, while we are all used to conducting meetings over video calls, there are concerns that the decisions made during unscheduled conversations at the coffee cart will be missed by remote workers.

How can employers ensure equality of opportunity for all within a hybrid working model?

Could those with children or other caring responsibilities be put at a disadvantage when promotions roll around because they are more likely to opt for remote working? On a similar note, will it be deemed acceptable to be responsible for the care of others (including Zoom-bombing toddlers) whilst working?

A FINAL THOUGHT: THERE’S MORE TO THINK ABOUT

It’s impossible to capture every issue that’s likely to arise during this transition. One thing that we absolutely must do is to keep diversity and inclusion at the front of our minds.

Every one of us has a different set of circumstances at home and our experiences of working remotely during the pandemic will have been different. As we move into hybrid working models, the separation between home and office will blur and it will be more important than ever to consider individual circumstances when managing our teams.  

About the author

Dean sits as part of our market-leading finance & operations practice and leads on all HR, Talent & Legal mandates across the private equity, venture capital and alternatives space.

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