Hybrid Working FAQs

Here you will find the answers to the most common questions asked about hybrid working.

Hybrid Working Scheme

Why has the Council introduced Hybrid Working?

Now that we are moving to different phase of the pandemic, where risks relating to the spread of Covid are significantly reduced, the Council is very clear that it wants to retain a vibrant workplace culture which allows staff time to collaborate, learn and work together in an office environment, whilst also having some flexibility to work from home. We have also extensively surveyed our staff on this matter, and 93% of our current homeworkers and agile homeworkers have indicated their preference for a hybrid working model with time in the office and time at home. This approach is also fully in line with the recently issued Scottish Government’s guidance for workplaces and the introduction of a hybrid approach.

Why can’t I just keep working from home full-time?

The Council is clear that measures put in place which required staff to work from home exclusively, were introduced as a health and safety measure to reduce the spread of covid and protect vulnerable people. This requirement is now no longer necessary, and the Council is removing this requirement of staff along with relaxation of other mitigating measures recommend by the Scottish Government. Alongside this, working from home on a full-time basis is not suited to many of the posts within the Council, and whilst you feel that you may have been working successfully in this way over the last two years, it does not mean that this is appropriate going forward.

The Council recognises that homeworking has offered many employees a new level of flexibility and work life balance that they may wish to retain, and our new Hybrid model makes provision for retaining a significant proportion of this flexibility by allowing you to work from home 14 out of 20 working days, or 70% of your working time in a 4-week period

What if I cannot return to the office due to changes I have made in my childcare or other caring responsibilities?

It is your responsibility to ensure that you are available for work during your contracted hours, without having to undertake other caring duties for others, whether working at home or in an office. If you require additional flexibility because of changes you have made, over and above what is being offered in your hybrid working pattern, you should discuss this with your manager at the first opportunity, and if necessary, apply to change your working pattern and/or hours through the Smarter Working Policy.

When will Hybrid Working commence?

Officially, hybrid working will commence from Monday 4 April 2022, and you will be issued with a contract variation to this effect prior to that date. However, your manager will discuss the possibility of returning to the office prior to this date as part of the transition to the Hybrid Working model.

Can you opt out of Hybrid Working?

If your manager has identified your post as suitable for Hybrid Working, then you are expected to work in this way. We would ask that all Hybrid Workers work in this way initially. Going forward, if there is a reason that you cannot participate in Hybrid Working you should discuss this with your manager who will advise you accordingly.

If I apply to work from home permanently through the Smarter Working Policy, will it be approved?

The normal process will apply and therefore the decision as to whether or not you can work from home permanently will be based on the requirements of your post and the needs of the service. Although you may have been successfully working from home full time for the last two years, this does not mean that your post is suitable for working from home permanently going forward. If your working pattern is approved to be changed to fully homeworking, this will be in the form of an individual adjustment to your working arrangements, rather than a change to the contracted status of your role which will remain as a hybrid worker.

Regarding the minimum 6 days per 4-week period, will this be pro-rated based on contracted hours for part-time employees?

Yes, it will be pro-rata depending on the hours you are contracted to work. So, if you work 17.5 hours per week, you divide those hours by 5 (days) and multiply by the 6 (days) you are required to attend the office. In this example, you would be required to work 21 hours in the office.

Employees who work full time hours will be required to attend a minimum of 6 days.

Will the six days be set days each 4-week period?

Your line manager will agree this with you. Some posts are better suited to set days, whilst others will require flexibility.

Who / how will the 6 days minimum in the office be monitored?

Line managers will monitor this within their own teams and feedback any concerns when the review of the hybrid model is being undertaken.

Will there be flexibility to the minimum of 6 days i.e. 1 day a week as standard?

It can be flexible, and your line manager will discuss this individually with you and with your full team to establish the most efficient and effective pattern for the service. As the reasons for coming into an office include collaboration, wellbeing, team development and induction for new staff, for most teams this is likely to mean that you are in at least once per week.

What was the rationale behind 6 days in the office?

Feedback from staff and managers suggested that some face-to-face interaction each month would be helpful for specific things such as training, 121’s or team meetings, wellbeing discussions and to help combat isolation. We also recognised that people enjoy working from home, so felt this was a good proportion of time to be in the office.

Is there a maximum number of days you can work from the office? I.e. could we return full time? - is there building capacity?

You can work more than 6 days in the office if you wish to do so but you should discuss and agree this with your line manager, so that they can arrange for a permanent working space to be made available to you if this is required.

Is the four-week period, the same period as the current flexi system?

Yes, as this will allow for easy management of time by both managers and employees

Can you clock in at home and then go to the office for say 10am and this counts as one of the 6 days?

The pattern of how you work your 6 days is something that will be agreed between you and your line manager, and you should be aware that such adjustments will only be agreed where it suits the requirements of your post and the service.

Can you work the 6 days flexibility to include half day’s attendance as opposed to full days?

This should be discussed with your line manager to determine if it can be accommodated within the needs of your post and the service.

My work involves a lot of site visits, if I am out and about visiting sites for a day as part of my work does this count as one of my six days?

Yes, it could count towards one of your six days as long as this was agreed with your line manager. However, it may be that you are required to attend the office on additional days for team meetings or collaborative work.

The 6 days in a 4-week period. Do they need to be static and fixed, or for example, could I do 4 Tuesdays when the whole team are in, but the other 2 days, could that be 4 half days at my discretion during the 4-week period that I choose when I go in that best suit the service I support and me?

The model is designed to allow for maximum flexibility for both employees and the service but how and when you work should be discussed and agreed with your line manager.

What if someone is ill, on annual leave or sickness absence, do they then need to do their 6 days another time. Or can these just be missed this period?

There would be no requirement to meet the minimum requirement of 6 days in these circumstances, unless there was a business requirement to attend the office and there was adequate time left in the 4-week period to do so.

If a manager asks an employee to go into the office outwith an agreed pattern, how much notice does the Manager need to provide?

If it is not one of the agreed 6 days, then it would be reasonable to provide a days’ notice, however managers would be asked to provide as much notice as possible. There may also be occasions when little notice will be given, but this should only be in exceptional circumstances.

What is the long-term aim of this model, is it to get everyone back to an office/hub base all the time or is the intention to always keep some form of hybrid working where there is a choice/flexibility of where the work is carried out.

The intention is not to get everyone back to an office/hub base all the time. The aim of the hybrid working model is to strike a balance between the efficiency and productivity of working at home with the need to bring teams together for health and wellbeing, good collaboration and creativity and to help with induction of new starts. This hybrid model will continue to be reviewed.

Will we be able to attend the office as a team? If not, what benefit will there be from working in the office?

Yes, it will be important to attend as a team. However, in some roles it may be your attendance in an office is to collaborate with other teams or services. This should be discussed and agreed with your line manager./ht_toggle]

What if an employee does not want to attend the office for 6 days?

The council has agreed a hybrid model as their future workplace model. There is an expectation that employees who have roles that can be undertaken in a hybrid way do so. If after trying the hybrid model, an employee would like to request to work less than 6 days in the office or would prefer to work fully at home, they can apply to do this through the Smarter Working Policy. Alternatively, if an employee is unable to work in a hybrid way due to a disability or personal reason including a health matter, they should discuss this with their line manager and a reasonable adjustment to their working pattern may be considered.

Transition period – can you apply for home working or reduced days during transition period?

We would urge all hybrid workers to trial the scheme before submitting an application to change their hours or work base. If you have concerns about commencing the hybrid model please discuss these with your line manager in the first instance.e.

The current smarter working policy allows 1 application per 12 months, does the introduction of the new Future Workplace policy have impacts such as;
If a current working agreement has already been applied for within the last 12 months, will individuals be unable to apply again for homeworking or reduction in required days?

The normal rules of the Smarter Working Policy will apply, therefore you can only submit an application if it has been 12 months since you last submitted one.

If a temporary arrangement is applied for due to personal circumstances and agreed for a period of 6 months, would this be able to be extended or applied for again in that 12-month period or be unable to do so?

If you have a temporary arrangement in place for an agreed period of 6 months, this should be reviewed and a decision taken as to whether or not it is suitable that you continue on a temporary or permanent basis. Any other work patterns you wish to be considered for should be applied for in the normal way.

Will flexi leave still be available?

There are no plans as part of the Hybrid Working Policy to change flexi leave. However, managers will continue to monitor flexi leave to ensure that employees are not working excessive hours or/and at times of the day that they are not required to work.

Will coreless flexi still be available to Hybrid Workers?

Yes, the coreless flexi process will operate as normal and will continue to be approved by your line manager and at the exigencies of the service.

Should new staff be asked to attend more than 6 days as this may help them settle more quickly?

This is certainly something that should be considered and discussed with the staff member and line manager.

How long will the scheme be in place?

Initially it will be in place for 12 months, during which time the scheme will be reviewed and amendments made where necessary.

Has the scheme been approved by the trade unions?

Yes, they have approved the scheme for 12 months, with the agreement that there will be regular reviews of the scheme and its effectiveness.

Can I work my days from home anywhere else?

You should only be working from home, hub or another NLC location. You should not be working from other personal locations unless in exceptional circumstances that have been agreed with your line manager. For instance, if you are required to temporarily care for a parent who lives in a separate home/area, you can ask to work from their home as opposed to your own.

I already work from home permanently through a Smarter Working Application, will this change?

No

I am on a flexible work pattern, will this change when I become a hybrid worker?

No, any smarter working arrangements that have been agreed and are in place will not change.

Will I receive an allowance when working from home to cover my broadband and utility bills?

No, if you are unable to work at home, you should advise your line manager who will arrange for you to have a permanent base within an office. You can also apply to HMRC for a tax allowance when working from home and details can be found here.

My new office base is further away from my house than previously, can I use another building or hub for my six days?

You are expected to attend your contracted office base for the six days, however you should discuss with your line manager the suitability of attending hubs or other offices during these days or outwith these days.

What is a hub and can I use it now?

Hubs are areas that have been created for use by multiple people from different services. If you are classified as a hybrid or agile worker, the hubs will offer you more choice when you are out working in our communities. More information on the hubs is available on MyNL.

What if I am refusing to become a Hybrid Worker and do not wish to sign my contract variation?

If you do not agree to the terms and conditions associated with Hybrid Working you will be asked to return to an office full time.

Office Bases

What is the service office base?

Each service has been given an office base, which helps ensure you and your team can meet together. Your line manager will be able to advise you of your base and you are encouraged to arrange an appropriate time to visit the space.

How do you book a desk or a collaborative space outwith the 6 days?

Details on how to book a desk or collaborative space can be found here. You don’t need to book a space in your service base unless your line manager devises a system that requires you to do so.

Will I be able to block book desks in the same room/location?

Yes, there will be the opportunity to book desk spaces/pods beyond what is available in your service base.

How will it be decided what desk you can book or where you sit in the office?

These decisions will be made by your line manager in discussion with the teams.

Where staff previously worked at an office that is now closed and they are being asked to come into another office for their 6 days, further from their home, will they be entitled to excess travel?

If your main office location is contractually changed and you are now required to travel further, then you will be entitled to excess travel for the days you travel, 18 months from the date of the commencement of the change to your contract.

The excess cost of travel is calculated on the basis of the bus fares or standard rail travel or, if the employee travels by private motor vehicle, on the basis of the public transport mileage rate (14 per mile). The payment only applies to the additional cost element experienced by the individual over that previously incurred in line with their historical work location.

Can I attend the service base in advance of coming back?

Yes, we would encourage this. Please arrange this with your line manager

Can I ask to change my office base due to travelling difficulties?

If you are unable to travel to your new office location, you should discuss this with your line manager to see what support can be provided. This may include adjusting your working times to allow you to travel to your new location on public transport.

Will there be coffee/tea and kitchen facilities available?

Yes, these will be available in relevant areas of the buildings.

Will there be coffee shop/restaurant facilities available at any of the buildings?

There will be café type services available in your building or nearby but there will not be restaurant facilities.

Will there be pool cars available?

Pool cars will be available for use and your line manager will advise if you are able to access these.

The use of Council vehicles will be reviewed over the next 6 months in line with the review of the hybrid working model. There is no corporate pool car system with all previous pool cars being allocated to individual Services to use. The number of vehicles is the same as before the pandemic and we have less people in the office on any one day so there should be more than enough vehicles for people to use. If there are any issues with accessing vehicles then this should be raised through your line manager.

Equipment

Will everyone now need / get headsets to facilitate potential of MS Teams meetings happening in the office?

Yes, headsets will be included in the minimum kit for hybrid workers. If you don’t have one, please alert your manager as soon as possible.

What equipment would you need to take into the office and what if I have specialist equipment?

You will be required to bring your laptop and any other equipment that you have been advised to bring by your line manager.

What will happen to telephone numbers? Will they all be through laptops moving forward or just mobiles?

There will be a combination of options utilised depending on the role you undertake. Your line manager should discuss your individual and service needs with you.

What kind of tech will be available in the office as most of us use 2 screens, if don’t have same set up in office as home, is it recognised that this will affect productivity?

If you have special requirements you should discuss these with your line manager who will make the appropriate arrangements for you to have the equipment you need to carry out your role.

How will equipment used at home be PAT tested?

All employees are required through their home working self-assessment to ensure a regular visual check of all equipment and cables is carried out. Portable appliance testing will be carried out by the Councils contractor at appropriate times.

I have a chair at home that was purchased for me to support my back, will there be one available in the office?

Your line manager will discuss any requirements you need to allow you to return to the office and work safely.

What about Contact Tracing?

Until advised otherwise you will be required to provide your name and contact number on a sign in sheet that will be available in each office and in larger offices, they will be based on each floor.

Health, Safety and Wellbeing

How is the COVID risk being managed if teams are being asked to return to an office, even for some of the time?

The health and wellbeing of our staff is our top priority. Risk assessment of each service area will be undertaken prior to any return and any return will be done in line with Scottish Government guidance.

Who will undertake the risk assessment?

A generic risk assessment has been produced for the office return. This document is within a CMT report which also makes proposals on how fire and first aid can be managed. It is recommended within the report in order to ensure appropriate safety & wellbeing measures that a building management group is formed. They will take forward the generic risk assessments for each building ensuring employees are briefed on the content.

I would prefer to be in the office, however, because of my personal circumstances would worry about the volume of people in the office. How would it be managed?

In line with the risk assessment and following Scottish Government guidance. Your manager will also discuss any concerns with you.

I would prefer to be in the office, however, because of my personal circumstances would worry about the volume of people in the office. How would it be managed?

In line with the risk assessment and following Scottish Government guidance. Your manager will also discuss any concerns with you.

I was classed as High Risk throughout the pandemic, how will you ensure my safety when returning to the office?

Your line manager will carry out an individual risk assessment and discuss what supports and adaptations are required to allow you to return to the office safely. If the risk assessment advises that it is not safe for you to return, you will be advised to continue to work from home for a further period and a review date will be set to reassess the situation

Will physical distancing still be in place?

At the current time the desk layout lends itself to 1 metre distancing and employees will be reminded when they are briefed on the content of the risk assessment that should be distancing where they can so no congregating at printers, kitchen areas etc. The Council has aligned itself with Scottish Government in relation to this and regular communications will be issued to employees regarding any changes.

I’m scared to be around other people in an office

Employees who are concerned or feel uncomfortable about mixing with others should consider being part of the Distance Aware Scheme. This is a Scottish Government approved scheme that provides individuals with a badge or lanyard that clearly advises others to keep their distance from you. Lanyards will be made available to you and further information on the scheme can be found here

How will you ensure that communal areas and lifts are not overcrowded?

Posters and regular communications will remind staff to be mindful of overcrowding in communal areas and where possible to maintain a level of social distancing.

What cleaning regimes are in place for communal areas?

During the daily cleaning regimes staff are continuing to focus on touch point sanitising cleaning and we are considering providing day cleaning in the larger office sites.

What are the cleaning protocols around individual desks?

Employees will be responsible for cleaning the desk area before and after use and materials will be made available in each office for this purpose.

Who will be responsible for monitoring covid mitigations and who will deal with any issues?

Line managers will monitor covid mitigations in their own areas and address any concerns with employees.

Who will supply hand sanitiser and will this be accessible at all desks?

Sanitiser will be available in all office areas.

Is there any likelihood of the implementation of the policy being delayed due to the new Omnicron variant?

We will only return employees to the office in line with Scottish Government guidance. At this time, it is safe to return to offices on a phased basis.

What are the implications for individuals with specific equipment to support health issues, eg chairs, footstools, risers etc, and will the relevant equipment be made available

All relevant equipment will be made available where staff have particular equipment needs, this will be the responsibility of line managers to arrange.

Will lateral flow tests be required to be taken the day you are going into the office by all employees?

If the return to the office and risk assessment requires this, then LFTs will be encouraged. Your line manager will keep you advised of any testing requirements as we progress through the recovery period.

Have employees to be fully vaccinated before sitting with others?

No

Is there enough room to accommodate all safely?

Yes

Will there be restrictions on use of communal areas i.e. the kitchen?

Decisions on this will be made in line with the risk assessment.

Will risk assessments for the service and hub spaces be made available to staff?

Yes, these can be accessed via here

What if I don’t like working from home or the office as it is affecting my health?

You should discuss any concerns you have with your line manager in the first instance.

A colleague who works in the same office as me has tested positive, do I need to go home?

No. The Council is maintaining 1m social distancing within the workplace and if you have complied with this you will not be classed as a close contact. The requirement for 1m social distancing and keeping your distance from colleagues is contained within the return to work risk assessment your manager will have briefed you on prior to returning to the office.
If for any reason you were to be classed as a close contact the Scottish Government contact tracing team would advise you of this and any required action.

A colleague who works in the same office as me has tested positive, will the office be cleaned?

Cleaning regimes are in place for all Council properties appropriate to any risk from Covid.

Updated on 10th May 2022

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