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Hybrid working - frequently asked questions for managers

Hybrid working at the University of Manchester

What is the difference between flexible working and hybrid working?

Hybrid is a way of managing working schedules within existing contractual agreements; decisions are usually made as part of a team. It usually means that colleagues undertake some of their work at their contractual place of work (usually on campus but we know that some colleagues work off campus e.g. Jodrell Bank, John Rylands Library) and some remotely (usually at home). The exact balance will vary depending on the role and responsibilities.

Flexible working is a specific variance to standard contractual agreements for individuals, which sets out working hours that are different from a standard full-time contract. It is possible to work in a hybrid way and have a flexible working agreement in place at the same time.

Why have the hybrid working categories changed?

When the hybrid working principles were first launched, there were four hybrid working categories. Following feedback from PS colleagues throughout the pilot and emerging hybrid working best practice, the decision was taken to move to three categories. The three categories give a range of hybrid working options aimed at balancing operational needs of the University with the needs of individuals and teams.

Will colleagues need to make a request for hybrid working through the University Flexible Working Policy?

No – all hybrid working arrangements will be agreed informally between managers and individuals/teams. Arrangements do not constitute a change to an employee’s terms and conditions of employment. We recommend using a Working Together Charter to clearly set out how hybrid working will work in your team.

Why is the University offering hybrid working?

At all stages of the hybrid pilot, we received broadly positive feedback. Colleagues able to work in a hybrid way have identified a wide range of benefits including the attraction and retention of talented staff, improvements in employee engagement and greater wellbeing. 

Who is hybrid working for?

Hybrid working can apply to Professional Services (PS) colleagues depending on the requirements of their roles.

Assessing a role for hybrid working

I am recruiting to a PS role – can I advertise it as being open to hybrid working?

Yes.  All University roles are eligible for flexible working from day one of employment and this statement is included in all University job advertisements. Roles which are open to hybrid working also include a statement in the job advert to say that hybrid working is available.  We know that many applicants are asking about hybrid and flexible working opportunities during the recruitment and selection process so you should have a clear idea of which hybrid working category the advertised role is in and be open and transparent with candidates about your expectations around hybrid working.  

How do I decide if someone can do hybrid working?

Our Hybrid Working Framework lays out the categories which the majority of roles relate to. If you feel that none of the categories are appropriate please contact your People and OD Partner for further support. 

Should I take into account each team member’s individual circumstances when making my decision?

Yes you can, where this is relevant. For example, if someone has a disability then this should be taken into account as supporting homeworking may be a reasonable adjustment. When people can work in their preferred way this can support employee engagement and wellbeing – however this has to be balanced at all times with the needs of the University, its stakeholders, students and other members of staff.

If someone has specific circumstances that mean they would prefer to work remotely more often, this would require a Flexible Working Request.

Can people move from one category of hybrid working to another if their personal circumstances change?

Decisions about what form of hybrid working is suitable should be driven predominantly by the nature of the role, the service requirements and the responsibilities of colleagues. We encourage managers to regularly review their Working Together Charters to check it is meeting the evolving needs of the team and the University. If the circumstances in question relate to health or disability it is important to consider this as we may be required to make reasonable adjustments to support staff. You should discuss specific circumstances with your People and OD Partner

Can people move from one category of hybrid working to another if they are part of a team involved in a transformation programme?

Members of teams which are going through transformation programmes, such as the Student Experience Programme (SEP) may find that their role is assigned to one category at the moment, but as organisational changes come into effect as a result of the transformation, their role may move into a different category in the Framework.

Managers whose teams are involved in transformation programmes may also require more time to create or adjust their Working Together Charter beyond the target completion date of 30 September 2022.

What if some colleagues do not want to work in a hybrid way and want to return to campus full time?

No one will be required to work from home. If colleagues want to work exclusively at their University location then they can continue to do so.

Can people work from home all of time?

100% remote working, or arrangements with very occasional on-campus working, are not within the remit of hybrid working and applications for this kind of working arrangement should be made through the University’s Flexible Working Policy.

Does my team have to request hybrid working? Do I have to say yes?

No, all PS colleagues with suitable roles are eligible for hybrid working. You should use the Hybrid Working Framework to consider which category your team fall under (this may be different categories for different team members, depending on the nature of their role).If you’re unsure about a request, please see our Resources for guidance or speak with your People and OD Partner.

How do I have a conversation with my team about hybrid working?

We encourage leaders and managers to discuss hybrid working with their team. We know that many colleagues are keen to continue hybrid working so you should schedule regular conversations with the team to discuss how hybrid is working in practice, and consider ideas and suggestions on how to make it work better in your area.

You can use the Working Together Charter presentation pack to facilitate your discussions.

What happens if I can’t agree with an individual which category matches their role?

Read our guidance on assessing a role for hybrid working as this may help. If you believe that a role is best suited to a particular category but it becomes apparent that this is not the best option you can change the category at any time. It may be necessary to try different categories or a different balance of on campus/remote working to fully establish what works best.

If you need further advice, please contact your People and OD Partner who can assist in coming to an agreement without the need to invoke the University’s grievance procedure.

What happens if I turn down a request for hybrid working?

Decisions about hybrid working do not require formal approval and do not constitute a change to the terms and conditions of employment, so there is no formal appeal process. Therefore managers should use the Working Together Charter presentation pack to facilitate a discussion within their team and come to an agreement about how hybrid working will work best for the team. If you do not agree that the role can be carried out in a hybrid way, you and your team member may wish to discuss this further with your People and OD Partner

What if I agree to hybrid working and it causes operational issues?

Hopefully, this can be avoided if a Working Together Charter is properly in place. However, there may have unforeseen implications that need to be addressed on an ongoing basis. It is important to regularly review the Working Together Charter to ensure it is meeting the evolving needs of the University, team and individual.

Where there are performance issues relating to specific colleagues, these should be addressed in the normal way.

Workspaces

As hybrid becomes normal practice what will happen to offices and desks?

This is an aspect that is currently in development. We are working with architectural design consultants to review our working spaces and reflect on how we want to work together in future. Colleagues will be invited to take part in these discussions as they evolve.

Hybrid meetings are becoming more common, and the Learning and Organisational Development team in the Directorate of People and OD has courses available to help teams get the best out of them. Teams are encouraged to think about when, why and how they want to meet, depending on the type of meeting required.

We are also looking at technology to support hybrid meetings and would welcome any examples of where this may already be working well so we can share best practice. Email hybrid@manchester.ac.uk

How will I know if someone has a suitable work environment at home?

Colleagues are asked to confirm that they have a suitable working environment and can meet all of the obligations set out in the Hybrid Working Framework. Managers will also need to remind colleagues working in a hybrid way about specific Health and Safety requirements.

If an individual has a disability, the University is required to make reasonable adjustments to support you, and working from home may amount to a reasonable adjustment. This can, therefore, be taken into account. Advice from the Disability Advisory Support Service (DASS) may be helpful and funding may be available in certain circumstances.

Is support available to help pay household expenses when staff are working from home?

The University has carefully considered whether it is able to make payments to colleagues to contribute to household expenses incurred while working from home, such as heating, lighting, internet connection etc.

On balance, the decision has been taken not to offer such payments but to encourage colleagues to consider making a claim for household expenses in the form of income tax relief through Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Details about this tax relief and how to claim it are available on the HMRC website. HMRC advises that you make one annual claim for the period you have been working from home as the refund will likely be given in the form of a tax code adjustment, so you will pay less tax over the year. Multiple taxpayers from the same address can claim this tax relief.

IT and other equipment

How do colleagues request IT equipment to enable them to work in a hybrid way?

If you want to order equipment for your team members visit the IT services website https://www.itservices.manchester.ac.uk/ and under “Our Services” choose “Purchase IT Equipment” and follow the instructions on how to submit a request.

What do I do if a colleague who requests hybrid working needs specialist IT equipment at home as well as on campus?

Generally, the University will only provide equipment for the primary or most appropriate work location.  If equipment cannot be easily transported the role may not therefore be suitable for hybrid working.  

Can I tell colleagues to purchase equipment to use to work from home and claim it back through expenses?

You can speak to your team about:

  • Purchasing small items up to the value of £50 eg: a footrest, keyboard, mouse etc. If the item you’re requesting costs more than £50 you cannot use the expenses process but instead should follow the usual University purchasing process. This requires approval from the appropriate member of the Senior Leadership Team before an order is placed. It is not possible for staff to purchase items of more than £50, claim £50 through expenses and then make up the remaining amount themselves.
  • Contact the Furniture Store to see if it has the item you require. The Furniture Store has invested in additional recycled desks and chairs, which are available to those most in need. If you are unable to pick up items you’ve requested from the Furniture Store, you should talk to your line manager to see if alternative delivery can be agreed. If there is a cost associated with delivery, you must have agreement from your line manager, local budget holder and relevant member of the University’s Senior Leadership Team before placing an order with a delivery company. You should also request a receipt from the company you use and submit this through the usual expenses process.

What about colleagues who cannot easily transport the equipment they need between campus and their home?

This may mean that a role is unsuitable for hybrid working and will need to be 100% campus based. 

Hybrid working hours

Can colleagues in the same category choose their own working pattern?

Within the Hybrid Working Framework, which days someone can work from home or on campus will depend on the nature of the role; the team’s service requirements and how the team has locally decided to undertake hybrid working.

Some colleagues work part-time and therefore it is expected that managers will agree a reasonable adjustment to the number of days they are required on campus depending on their existing flexible working agreement.

This should all form part of your Working Together Charter. Every team has different service requirements and outcomes to deliver – there may be circumstances where it is preferable for everyone to work remotely all at the same time, and to also come onto campus at the same time. There will be others 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.

As a manager you should agree working arrangements which you believe will work best for the individual, team, students and our University. These arrangements should be captured in a Working Together Charter. If after an initial trial period you find this is not working you should discuss alternative arrangements.

Someone I manage wants to change their working hours as part of hybrid working. What should I do?

Moving from full- to part-time or beginning a job share arrangement are best dealt with under the Flexible Working Policy. Hybrid can be agreed informally and included in a Working Together Charter. 

Can I ask everyone in my team to work certain hours?

We recommend that discussions about hours form part of your Working Together Charter. For example, it may support communications to have times that everyone is working at the same time.  Where teams work flexi-time this is unaffected by hybrid working and hours can be undertaken on campus or remotely.

Can I ask everyone in my team to come onto campus on the same day for a meeting or event?

Yes you can.  You need to be mindful of Flexible Working agreements that are in place when scheduling all-colleague events.   

Caring responsibilities

Can colleagues refuse to come to work on campus if they do not have childcare for the day I have requested them to come in?

It’s the responsibility of all colleagues to have adequate childcare in place during their usual working hours whether they are working on campus or remotely.  Colleagues are responsible for assessing their own childcare needs and ensuring that they are able to fully undertake their duties. Where a colleague has temporary childcare issues they should use the University’s Special Leave policy.  

Hybrid working evaluation

How will the University evaluate the success of hybrid working?

Since the launch of the pilot in 2021, we have collated a variety of feedback from our students, academic colleagues and PS colleagues through focus groups, pulse surveys, secondary data and our flexible working champions network.

As we work to further embed hybrid working in Professional Services we will continue to regularly gather a range of qualitative and quantitative data from our key stakeholders to monitor the success of hybrid working.