NICVA's approach to piloting blended/hybrid working

24 Nov 2021 Alex Hastings    Last updated: 24 Nov 2021

Whilst the NI Executive guidance remains to 'work from home where possible', at NICVA we have been planning how we will return to the workplace and are happy to now share our approach to this.

Introduction

The NI Executive guidance remains 'work from home where possible', however, employers are planning for the return to the workplace following a long period of home working for many. At NICVA, we have been doing just that and following our recent article are happy to now share how we plan to approach blended/hybrid working within our workforce. As with all information we share about our own practices at NICVA, our approach reflects the culmination of thought, reflection, research and consultation about what might work for us at NICVA, which we recognise may not be suitable for other sectoral organisations.

For helpful guidance, the LRA's (Labour Relations Agency) Guide to Hybrid Working provides an excellent resource to assist organisations in the planning process. Our attached document outlines some of the key principles we will adopt to implement a blended working pilot at NICVA when the NI Executive’s work from home guidance is lifted. 

10 point summary of NICVA's approach to blended working - what it is and what it is not

  1. It provides the option (for in-scope roles) to spend some time each week working in the NICVA building and some time working from home.
  2. It will be based on a percentage of time (a minimum will be set) spent working in NICVA and at home. The percentage provides more flexibility in terms of part and full days for all our staff, some of whom are part time.
  3. It is not mandatory, is not an automatic entitlement but is optional. The work of NICVA and the most effective delivery of our services remains the priority.
  4. Everyone at NICVA will retain a workstation, therefore a staff member who wishes to, could work full time in NICVA.
  5. It recognises the benefit of the blended approach to the variety and accessibility of services we provide as well as to our staff in terms of wellbeing and productivity.
  6. It is primarily about enhancing the work of NICVA within the framework of our vision, mission and values and is an employer led approach for our whole workforce.
  7. It is not aimed at bringing about contractual changes to individual working patterns. NICVA’s well established Flexible Working policy is dedicated to an individual’s specific request to work flexibly under a formal and permanent arrangement.
  8. NICVA is a small organisation and may require attendance in the workplace at short notice. The key to the success of this pilot will be flexibility, therefore staff won’t develop specific work patterns under this approach.
  9. It will be piloted for approximately 12 months and will be continually under review. It is not a new policy but a draft approach which will be amended, altered, updated, and changed as required throughout the pilot.
  10. It will require the development of other policies such as GDPR, home working, health and safety risk assessments and to satisfy organisational insurance requirement.

The FAQ section at the back of the document may answer some of the specific questions this approach raises in terms of its practical implementation. This is not an exhaustive list of FAQs and will be reviewed and added to throughout the pilot. The document also highlights some key themes which will be further developed as the pilot is implemented.

NICVA's current situation and how we arrived at our pilot approach

In following the NI Executive guidance, NICVA staff who can do, have continued to work from home since March 2020 though our building re-opened on 1 June 2021. Staff may work at NICVA if needed, following all our Covid-19 safety protocols. 

In August 2020 we issued a staff survey in which 60% of our staff stated that they would like to return to our building to work for at least part of their working week, when working from home guidance is lifted. As the guidance remained unchanged, we  conducted an online all-staff session to inform our planning, focussing on the work we do, what had worked well and perhaps not so well during the home working period. Throughout our process of review and reflection to help us plan our future ways of working, it is acknowledged that the working from home situation we were in had been driven by the government and necessity not by our own design. Therefore our review of working practices has focussed on the benefits we have seen emerge from the last 20 months and how we can best build on these.

Further engagement with our senior team, executive committee and staff led us to this draft approach which we hope will strike the right balance for us. Other organisations however may choose to go fully agile, may reduce office spaces or may require all staff to return to work as there is no one size fits all. We hope that sharing our thinking on this might help you shape yours. 

alex.hastings@nicva.org's picture
by Alex Hastings

Human Resources Manager

[email protected]

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