Below is information relating to hybrid working and managing a hybrid working team. There are also links to other useful resources throughout.
Hybrid working is about where work happens, which includes a mix of working on campus and remotely, if it suits the requirements of your role.
Not all roles will be compatible with a hybrid working model although other flexible working arrangements are available for consideration. Hybrid working provides more choices about how and where work is carried out, which may be more fixed or fluid in terms of the proportion of time spent in each location in a typical week, based on operational requirements. It may also operate differently during term-time and outside term-time for some roles, and may not be a preferred mode of working for some people, even if their role naturally suits it.
A great place to start is by looking at the benefits and guidance for developing a Team Charter (.pdf). By agreeing a charter with your team, you can help to improve your connections, collaboration, and impact, and create a greater sense of shared purpose.
A Team Charter can help you to set out any ground rules for hybrid working, and agree success measures, support, and parameters for what is best undertaken in person, or can be done remotely.
In our How we work at Essex – Hybrid Team Working Principles and Review (.docx) we have set out six overarching organisational principles to ensure effective hybrid working.
Decisions about hybrid working within your teams need to be made in a way that reflects and enables these principles.
Hybrid working does not require a contractual change. This way of working is an informal arrangement and is subject to ongoing review and may change. Contractual terms and conditions will remain the same.
There is no minimum length of time you need to have been employed by the University for you to be eligible for hybrid working.
You can request and discuss hybrid working with your manager as soon as you start at the University (or as part of the onboarding process).
Hybrid working is available to colleagues who work on a part-time basis. Your contractual hours do not influence your eligibility to request a hybrid working pattern.
Managers can work in a hybrid way if the requirements of your role allow for hybrid working. It is important for managers to work where possible in a hybrid way and lead by example. As with other colleagues, you would need to discuss and agree these arrangements with your own manager.
If you manage a service desk or another area which requires a constant in-person presence, you can ask your team to come onto campus on set days to ensure it is covered.
This is an operational and role requirement which would mean a face-to-face presence on campus is required.
The amount of time someone works on campus or at home can vary across the year.
Some roles may require you to be on campus more often at a specific time of year, for example during Graduation or at the start of an academic term. It is important to take into consideration the operational requirements of your role as these can potentially change across a year.
Colleagues don't necessarily have to work the same days in the office every week. It will depend on their role and what you have agreed with them.
Every team will be different; there may be some circumstances where it is preferable for everyone to work remotely at the same time and to also come into the University workplace at the same time. There will be other teams that will need a rota-type approach where remote time is shared across the team with people working specific days remotely to ensure operational coverage at the University. You may have agreed with your team that they can have flexibility on the days they come into the office.
Hybrid working means that individuals can work remotely from their own home or another suitable location and combine it with working at one of our campuses.
Where they work will need to be compatible with the requirements of their role and they will need to ensure that security of data/information is maintained, in relation to things like Wi-Fi and confidentiality of the surrounding environment.
Staff don't have the discretion to work wherever and whenever they want, the operational requirements of the role need to be considered.
If a member of your team would like to adopt hybrid working, you should meet with them to discuss and agree the working pattern in advance, so you are both clear about when they will be in the office.
Arrangements need to be in place for regular communication, to ensure that members of the team do not feel isolated, and messages can be passed on and disseminated easily. This ensures that colleagues can plan in person meetings, know where staff are and manage expectations.
While line managers are the decision-maker about hybrid working arrangements, the decision may need to include consulting with the Head of Section or Head of Department.
Some staff may not want to work in a hybrid way and may want to work on campus for the full duration of their working week.
Hybrid working is not mandatory and not everyone will have a suitable remote workspace to support hybrid working long-term. If an individual wants to work exclusively from one of our campuses, then they can continue to do so.
Line managers and staff are encouraged to discuss their desired approach, raise questions and suggestions, and jointly agree the best way of working for them.
There may be occasions when you need team members to attend meetings or training on one of our campuses. You should always try to give reasonable notice and discuss any practical challenges that may raise.
Individuals may wish to work from another location, but it must be discussed and agreed with you in advance.
It is important that a DSE assessment has been carried out to ensure it is safe, secure and appropriate to the work they are carrying out, and they will need to ensure that security of data/information is maintained, in relation to things like Wi-Fi and confidentiality of the surrounding environment.
Requests to perform role-related duties and work either partly or wholly outside of the United Kingdom will not be permitted other than in very exceptional circumstances, that are also likely to be temporary. Any overseas working arrangements would need to be agreed by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor or the Registrar and Secretary.
Managers can refuse a request for hybrid working. Operational requirements may need to be taken into consideration before responding to requests and there are some roles and activities that cannot be carried out remotely.
Managers should always try to support a request if it is reasonable, meets the requirements of their role and the needs of the University. However, if the role requires them to be based at one of our campuses to perform their job effectively and to enhance the student experience, you may not be able to accept their request.
Staff in this situation may find flexible working is an option for them.
It may be that you can't agree hybrid working for a team member. A request for hybrid working needs to be reasonable and meet the operational requirements of the role.
The University maintains the right to refuse hybrid working if an individual’s role is not suitable and operational requirements do not allow for a hybrid working pattern to be adopted.
If you need to refuse hybrid working, you must explain your reasons fully to your team member.
We would encourage manager to talk through the decision with your team member and to try to reach a compromise wherever possible.
Ultimately, if they remain unhappy with the decision, ultimately they can raise a concern under the University’s Grievance Procedure.
A hybrid working arrangement is not a contractual change and the arrangement will need to be kept under regular review to ensure it remains operationally viable.
You are encouraged to maintain an open dialogue with your team about how an arrangement is going and should use regular ‘check ins’ to discuss how things are working.
In addition, business reasons (such as a change in service requirements, team make-up or a demonstrable impact on productivity) may mean that you need to initiate a review of the arrangement. Where this is necessary you should give an individual prior notice before the change becomes effective.
Information about equipment, email, calendar sharing, files and folders, Zoom meetings, Instant messaging, telephones and software can all be found on the IT working remotely pages.
We are a campus-based university, and it is very important we consider how this impacts the experience of our students.
Currently we do not have remote working contracts and all members of staff will be expected to work some of their contractual hours on campus.
To create a positive and thriving environment it is essential that you engage in the culture and life of our campus, fostering a shared sense of community, inclusivity and belonging.
The opportunity for teams to come together in person provides a vital support structure as well as enabling cohesive functional team working. Our shared workspaces also provide staff with important opportunities for informal communications, development through shared experience and observation, and networking, that are crucial, particularly early on in a career and for new staff.
All University equipment and University information must be kept securely.
Colleagues should refer to the working with information and data pages for more information.
Hybrid working is an informal arrangement agreed with you and your staff on the location in which they will carry out their work. It is based on our core principles and built on trust and accountability.
Hybrid working is separate to flexible working which is normally a formal agreement relating to someone’s hours/pattern of work (eg. part-time, job share and condensed hours) although it can be informal (eg. a half an hour change to your start and finish time).
Hybrid working may be undertaken at the same time as other forms of flexible working to create a combination of hybrid and flexible working, eg. they may work part-time three days a week (flexible) and one of those days is in the office and the other two are from home (hybrid).
Staff do not need to complete a flexible working application form to work in a hybrid way, because this is an informal arrangement and is not a contractual change.
Agreement to hybrid working may reduce or alter the previous flexibility that was required.
Where informal arrangements need to be reassessed you should discuss this with the individuals affected, to determine whether any changes are required to informal arrangements and to seek agreement where necessary.
Staff members' working environment needs to be suitable and free from distractions, allowing them to focus on their work. They may also need to vary the days that they are on campus depending on the needs of their role.
Although hybrid/remote working may provide opportunities to participate in family activities (ie. school drop off) it should not be used as a substitute for childcare. They should discuss their arrangements with their manager.
When thinking about hybrid working and what it means for you, it is important to make sure that wellbeing is at the heart of this. Our health and wellbeing support looks at how we help ourselves and also how we help colleagues to look after for themselves.
Remote working environments must be safe and secure (including Wi-Fi and confidentiality of the surrounding environment), and they should also be adequate in terms of space, lighting, layout, and working conditions.
They should be appropriate to the work being conducted and free from distractions. Find out more about the health and safety requirements of working from home.
It is important that a DSE risk assessment of an individual’s workstation is carried out for the different hybrid locations they may be working from (including home) to ensure it is safe, secure and appropriate to the work they are carrying out.
It is important to speak to the individual and understand why they feel this way. You should acknowledge how and why they may be feeling apprehensive about returning to work on campus. You should explore how their concerns can be addressed and put any steps in place to overcome their fears. The expectation is that we are a campus-based University and some of the working week for individuals will be on campus.
If colleagues report general anxiety related to Covid 19 they should be signposted to the health and wellbeing resources available via Health and Wellbeing. The mental wellbeing tools and resources includes: online cognitive behavioural therapy CBT (via SilverCloud), support on building resilience, dedicated mental health first aiders and the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). The EAP includes: 24/7 mental health support and advice, access to structured counselling sessions and wellbeing webinars.
If colleagues have an underlying mental health condition, return to campus anxiety may increase the risk of symptoms and/or relapse. Managers should offer a Wellness Action Plan (WAP) and, if the colleague is struggling with their role and/or following a period of absence, managers could consider a referral to Occupational Health. WAPs aim to facilitate dialogue between individuals and their manager to identify personal triggers that affect health and wellbeing and measures that both the individual and manager can implement to support health and wellbeing. It also provides a formal record of the reasonable adjustments agreed, to minimise the need to re-negotiate adjustments each time the employee is working with a new line manager, is re-located or changes jobs, or job roles.
Further support and information can be found on the University’s Covid 19 webpages.
Colleagues are not expected to continue to work if they feel too ill to work, just because they are working remotely.
If a team member feels that their symptoms are mild and it doesn’t stop them from working, you may want to discuss the option of them working remotely if they can, to avoid spreading it to others on campus.
Sickness absence should continue to be reported in line with the University’s Sickness Absence Policy.
It is important to make sure that your team are taking regular breaks from their workstation and that they are not working excessive hours.
Ensure you have regular check-ins with them and encourage them to speak up if they feel their mental health is suffering whilst working from home.
For more information, please see our mental health information.
It may be that a member of your team can only come to work on public transport and they are anxious about travelling, and they may wish to request to continue working from home.
The University has determined that staff should return to the workplace and that it is safe to do so. If a member of your team continues to have concerns, you should discuss these with them. You may consider exploring options, dependent on business needs, such as changing their working hours to avoid rush hour.
Staff are entitled to the same breaks whilst working from home and you should encourage them to take these breaks for their health and wellbeing.
You may have a member of your team that requires an adjustment to their workplace/workstation due to a disability or other considerations (eg. menopause), and which may be impacted by hybrid working and our practice of ‘hot-desking’.
It is not our intention for hybrid working to have a negative impact on any workplace adjustments that may have been agreed.
It is important that you speak with the individual and seek guidance (from occupational health, for example) to understand the implications that hybrid working may have and agree any different actions that may need to be taken so they can work in a way that is inclusive and does not impact them negatively. This may relate to any specialist equipment they have, or access to specific parts of the office (to minimise heat, noise, stimulation etc).
It is important that we try and remove any workplace barriers and create an environment that is enabling for all individuals.
The contractual place of work remains one of our three campuses. Therefore, entitlement to claim any expenses they may be eligible for is unchanged.
For most people this will mean that their campus is their formal place of work and that no home to work commuting costs can be claimed as per normal.
No contribution will be made by the University towards normal household expenses attached to home working, such as heating, broadband, lighting or council tax costs.
If colleagues have incurred expenses to facilitate them working from home, then the HMRC allows for tax relief on certain expenses. The information includes the tax relief on the allowance per week to cover incidental expenses such as heating and lighting (currently £6).
Please refer to the car parking web pages for the latest information.
You should have an open discussion to understand their preferences and how these may fit with the requirements of their role and their other team members.
As we are a campus-based University, these must be considered along with the operational requirements of the role.
There may be the odd occasion where an in-person meeting needs to involve someone remotely. In these circumstances, it is important to make sure the meeting is as inclusive as possible.
If the meeting has a split between on campus and remote working attendees, ensure that none are disadvantaged by their location, and everyone is given the opportunity to contribute. If a group are in a meeting room on campus whilst another member of the team is joining remotely, do not allow side conversations.
For privacy reasons if you are sitting at your desk ensure your background is blurred and all your equipment is working correctly before you join the meeting.
Performance should be reviewed and managed as it would be usually. Objectives should be set so that expectations are clear. Make sure you check-in with your team member regularly which may be through 1-2-1s virtually or in person or in team meetings virtually or in person.
Any concerns around a team members performance should be addressed informally in the first instance. If greater support/supervision is needed, then an amendment to their hybrid working pattern may be needed to allow for greater in-person working in the short-term. If further support is required, please email email@example.com
It is important to review all the supporting materials available and agree a Team Charter to help decide if a particular hybrid working arrangement will work operationally.
If there are any performance issues relating to a member of staff these should be addressed in the normal way.
As a manager it is important to regularly review if the agreed hybrid working patterns of your staff are allowing operational needs to be met.
If you are participating in the Smart Working At Essex (SWAE) pilot programme we have developed a series of support pages that provide useful guidance and resources for working in shared office areas.