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Grant Thornton has been approached by a number of clients recently to carry out Working from Home and Hybrid Working Audits and Assurance reviews.
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From our experience there are five core areas that clients are seeking assurance on: Culture; Environment; Wellbeing; Technical; and Return to Work arrangements. Understanding how this affects the organisation, managers and employees is critically important to get right.

So if we start with culture. A culture within an organisation is shaped by its environment, and with a movement towards hybrid working, it is important to re-assess how that might impact the collective behaviour of your organisation. This will be the foundation of the success of your hybrid working approach. In these moments look to your Senior Leaders - how they set the tone and role model their behaviour will be an important part of embedding a culture that embraces hybrid working.

In communicating a change like this, the key to its effectiveness is to listen to the people doing the work, understand their perspectives and clearly communicate the rationale for decisions. Organisations that take a proactive approach in their communication strategy will ensure everyone remains informed, whilst regularly taking temperature checks throughout the year will help gauge how everyone is adapting to the new way of working.

As we plan to return to a sense of normality, organisations should also recognise that any arrangements in place for hybrid working are fit for purpose from both a physical and mental wellbeing perspective.

There is little doubt that the physical environment in which we are now working in is quite different to that of 18 months ago. As organisations begin to move to splitting time between the office and home, actions will be needed to ensure continued alignment in areas such as health and safety and data protection - Are there appropriate processes in place to determine if employee home stations meet health and safety needs? How will home office setups ensure that the organisation continues to meet GDPR requirements? These are examples of important questions organisations will need to address when implementing their hybrid working model.

As work and personal life become more interconnected, the boundary has now - for the first time for many - moved to the home environment. How well everyone adapts to these new adjustments and requirements will be influenced at an individual level. Consider the value and benefits you continue to offer your people, and how it may also need to adjust to new wellbeing needs as a result of this period of change. Organisations that are in tune with their people’s perspectives and challenges will be best prepared to offer suitable support and harmonise their needs with that of their teams and clients.

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New working arrangements will also bring new challenges from a technical perspective, with IT teams meeting new risks and operational demands. The movement towards long-term home working options will require organisations to review and map all associated risks and vulnerabilities against the new arrangements, while also ensuring there is continued assurance of the robustness of their working from home infrastructure, system monitoring and service line support.

Finally, as we return to the office, organisations will want to assure their people that they have done everything they can to protect their staff. Scenario planning will also be important as the current and longer-term working arrangements unfold.  Remote working will be regarded as a success for many organisations over the past 18 months; and that happened without a lot of advance planning, but if given more time, I’m sure many might have pre-empted some of the difficulties encountered. Now is the time to begin planning, with the beauty of hindsight, and to consider what’s worked well, what difficulties have been encountered, and what practices to bring in to this next evolution of hybrid working. And getting some assurance on this may not be a bad thing to protect everyone going forward.