Like many others, my company implemented a hybrid working arrangement since Covid, where staff are required to be in the office two days a week. However, during the pandemic when we were full-time remote, one employee moved further out into the countryside – not really a commutable distance to our office – and now refuses to follow the arrangement like everyone else. He’s a good worker and we don’t want to lose him, but I don’t feel it should be one rule for him and one for others. What can I do?
Generally, I feel it’s important to have flexibility within any rules an organisation sets. We live in such ever-changing times that it can be impossible to get everyone to follow one rule. A decision to move home, while they may have their own reasons for doing so, is the responsibility of the employee and not the organisation. Start off by looking at what matters more: the employee or the precedent this could set. I would say neither: the organisation should always be at the heart of everything you do. Look at the impact on the business and don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself if it goes against current practice.
Then objectively look at the role without thinking about the person – can it be done 100 per cent from home? What is your reasoning for having this role two days in the office? Once you have these answers, it will equip you well in managing this situation with the employee.
Start off by speaking with them with an open mind. Find out the reasons behind why they moved and why there are refusing to come in. Depending on these answers, you should get more of an idea of what you are dealing with.
To manage this, it would seem the employee should submit a flexible working request. This should be considered objectively and reasons given for accepting or rejecting the request or coming up with a compromise.
On a broader point, it will be worth monitoring and reviewing the current hybrid arrangement and adapting this where necessary.
An experienced HR professional, Idris Arshad is currently a people and inclusion partner at south-east London-based hospice St Christopher’s. He has previously worked with a number of faith-based charities, as well as with housing and homelessness organisations, and also lectured on a part-time basis at London Metropolitan University. He was recently mentored as part of CIPD’s Aspiring HR Director Mentoring programme.
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