Princes introduces hybrid working as it returns to the office

Monday (October 4th) marks a hugely important milestone at Princes.

It is the day that office-based colleagues will start to return to work after the challenges of working remotely during the last 18 months.

Recognising, however, that the world of work has changed for good – not least because of the positive and resilient way in which colleagues have responded during the pandemic – as of Monday, Princes is introducing two new flexible working options.

The first is hybrid working with colleagues having the chance, if they choose, to work 2 days remotely and 3 days in the office, while the second sees core hours being introduced 10-4 (Monday to Thursday) and 10-3 (Friday).

The new options both form part of a wider SMART Working project which started in November 2019 but was quickly overtaken by the first national lockdown in March 2020.

The project aimed to build upon some of the existing flexible working practices already on offer including staggered start and finish times, continental shift patterns at manufacturing sites, part-time and compressed hours, annualised hours and job shares.

The reopening of Princes’ offices, including the Royal Liver Building in Liverpool where almost 500 colleagues are based, will mark the official launch of the SMART Working initiative.

SMART Working is the term that covers all of the company’s flexible working options including hybrid working and core hours.

As a large and complex manufacturing business, a one size does not fit all approach does not work at Princes.

While workers at our manufacturing sites were classified as key workers and as such continued to work as normal during the pandemic, our office-based colleagues were not.

With a call from the Government for those who could work from home to work from home, we had to do things differently. Our focus shifted from input to output while those colleagues worked remotely and that along with improved and increased internal communications has improved two-way trust.

The last 18 months have been transformational for the world of work. When the national lockdown was announced, IT undertook the huge task of setting people up to work remotely and there was a real sense of camaraderie as colleagues responded to these unprecedented circumstances.

The number one consideration throughout was the health and wellbeing of our colleagues, and that focus continues now as we look to facilitate an improved work/life balance that enables us all to take advantage of improved flexibility while retaining the connections that can only be achieved by spending time together in a physical space.

Work should no longer be limited to ‘where you go’ but ‘what you do’. The move to a hybrid model is about understanding that while some work can be done well remotely, other more collaborative and innovative work may be better suited to an office environment.

We are also conscious that many colleagues are keen to return to the office either full or part-time. In a recent survey of RLB colleagues, only 18% of respondents said they wanted to work from home 5 days a week. Everyone else was looking for a more nuanced flexible approach.

And so, we planned for ‘Getting Back To Better’.

In an example of how things will work, at Head Office colleagues will continue to have a dedicated desk and so the option is also there for anyone to work from our offices more than 3 days a week. The introduction of core hours has been welcomed by colleagues looking forward to being able to flex their working hours on a week-by-week basis.

Ultimately, our aim is to attract and retain the best talent to support business growth and achieve our ambition of becoming an employer of choice.

By Joe Dent, Chief People Officer