Workplace wellness – a move towards hybrid working


Southern Cross Health Insurance and Business New Zealand recently published their Workplace Wellness Report 2021.  Trends from the report show organisations are taking a more active role in looking after employee wellbeing, in recognition of its impact on productivity.

Employers have also been more open to adopting flexible working arrangements than previous years.  We break down the Report’s key insights and provide practical tips for workplaces moving towards a hybrid working model.

Hybrid working

The term ‘hybrid working’ refers to a combination of time working from home (or remotely) and time in on-site at the employer’s premises.  The Report identified the hybrid working arrangement was one to two days per week working from home and the rest on-site.

The reality is a single workplace no longer exists for many employees.

Of course, the remote or hybrid working models will not be available across all industries.  Where remote working is possible, a move to a hybrid working model could be seen as sup

porting employee wellness by acknowledging:

Contact hours

Hybrid working also offers flexibility across working hours.  This allows employees to balance work with other commitments but, it becomes harder to switch off, leading to a spike in productivity but increased stress, fatigue and even burnout.

We encourage leaders to keep an open dialogue with staff about their online versus ‘no-go’ hours and how this fits in with their workload.  Set boundaries around when they are expected to be contactable. This may be done by checking in on an individual basis or more generally as part of a remote working policy.

Employers will also want to ensure employment agreements and payroll systems are set up to reflect any flexibility across working hours and days.

Absence from the workplace

The Report also provides the following insights into absences from the workplace:

Last year, the Government increased the minimum sick leave entitlement to 10 days per year in response to the need to stay away from the workplace and stop the spread of COVID-19.  This has aided a cultural shift, where we are seeing employers telling employees to stay home and rest if they are feeling unwell.  Some employers have reinforced this message by offering additional or unlimited sick leave (although only 9.5% of those surveyed offered the latter).

Although there is more leave available to employees than before, the average number of leave days taken has decreased.  This is likely because less people get sick when working remotely.  This could also be an (unintended) effect of the hybrid working model, which givers people the option of continuing to work when sick.

The entitlement to take sick leave is based on legal rights.  Whether this right is exercised is heavily influenced by organisational culture.  However, a workplace which discourages employees from taking sick leave may not be meeting its obligations to provide a safe and health work environment and allow employees adequate time to rest and recuperate.

Health, safety and wellness – physical considerations

We have previously discussed that health and safety obligations extend to the remote workplace.  The primary obligation is on employers to ensure employees have an appropriate workstation when working from home – as well as when on site.  Employers are recognising this obligation by offering:

Half of employers surveyed offered technology which enables remote working.  In comparison, only 14% of employers made a payment to assist with increased power and internet bills.

Psychological safety

In 2020, workload remained the biggest cause of work-related stress and anxiety, as reported by businesses of all sizes.  Employers were also concerned about employees feeling isolated when working off-site.

We recommend that all team members make the effort keep channels of communication open and share concerns as they arise.  This includes setting boundaries around contact hours, ways of communicating (think phone calls instead of video calls) and planned social interactions in the place of ‘water-cooler chats’.

The future of work

The Report indicates the hybrid working model is here to stay, as it offers both employers and employees greater flexibility and, if managed appropriately, improves productivity.  If your organisation is ready to make the move to a hybrid working model or needs assistance with navigating any of the above issues, get in touch with the team at Black Door Law.

Disclaimer:  This information is intended as general legal information and does not constitute legal advice.  If you have a specific issue and wish to discuss it get in contact with the Black Door Law team.