HR experts from Kirklees Top 100 Companies, including Thornton & Ross, UK Greetings and
BuyItDirect, discuss how they adopted flexible working during lockdown and how they are rolling out hybrid working long-term.
It goes without saying that the pandemic has revolutionised how people work. For some, both employers and employees, it has been an eye-opener, revealing how to achieve a better work/life balance. For others it has been a juggling act, trying to separate work from home life.
Whether you’re for or against hybrid working, it’s certainly here to stay. Benefits have included shorter commutes and reduced fuel costs, as well as increased family and social time. Employee demands have changed significantly, and employers now have their work cut out to ensure all needs are met to attract, motivate, and sustain staff.
“Hybrid working didn’t happen before the pandemic – we had sales teams that were field-based, and all other employees worked on site.” explains Lauren Wallman, Learning & Development Manager at Thornton & Ross, part of the STADA Group. “We are classed as a key service, so our manufacturing staff and key support staff had to continue to work on site. Any staff that could work from home were asked to. We are going to continue to operate in a more flexible way, with more employees splitting their time between working from home and the office.”
“Before lockdown, everyone was office-based, although there were many flexible working arrangements in place, it tended not to include remote working. Our technology therefore was designed around working from the office with very few laptops being used other than for field-based teams. When the first lockdown hit, we had to deploy circa 300 employees to working from home.” adds Claire Rusby, Human Resources Director at UK Greetings.
Cassie Lindley, People Director at BuyitDirect continues, “Prior to Covid-19 we did not have any flexible working, other than occasional part timers. Everyone worked in the office daily. Now, we have completely changed our approach to flexible working, with most office employees working from home as part of their working week, ranging from 1 to 4 days a week at home. Our Operations teams have continued to work at our warehouses all the way through the pandemic.”
A more hybrid approach has also allowed organisations to widen their net when it comes to recruitment, as Claire from UK Greetings explains. “For us a hybrid approach has proved to be a key factor in the recruitment process, with some of our new recruits who, due to their location, work from home on a permanent basis. We are also now operating a 3-2 hybrid model, so employees who are able to work from home can do so on Mondays and Fridays.”
Cassie from BuyItDirect, adds, “The changing world of work has expanded our net geographically. We have offered several roles as home working with occasional visits to our Head office. We’re also offering home working roles once new recruits have completed training and are effective within their role. We have certainly seen a reduction in absences and increase in productivity since the introduction of home working.”
Accommodating the individual demands of employees within a hybrid working model has been challenging, as Lauren from Thornton & Ross explains, “There have obviously been some challenges, but overall, it has been a positive experience for employees. There have been some great benefits, such as better work/life balance for employees that are able to work from home and operate in a more sustainable way by reducing travel time and carbon emissions.”
Claire from UK Greetings adds, “We have had mixed reactions, there are employees who want to work from home permanently or want more flexibility around the days they are in and out.
Mainly, the reaction has been positive, and we feel we now have a fair and consistent approach to office-based teams.”
During the pandemic BuyItDirect surveyed its employees to gather feedback on working from home. “The feedback was positive towards a more flexible approach to work, with some who would like to work at home permanently and others who’d prefer a mix of home/office working. As a growing business it’s about trying to balance how our new recruits experience the culture at BuyitDirect and build their network across teams whilst still offering flexibility and delivering the needs of our people,” Cassie explains.
While the pandemic forced companies to re-evaluate their working practices, establishing long-term processes that accommodate the demands of all employees is going to be tricky for many businesses. Needless to say, hybrid working is here to stay.
If you are a HR professional at one of the Kirklees Top 100 Companies and would like to join the
talent group, e-mail KirkleesTop100@hud.ac.uk.