As Covid-19 spread through the world in early 2020, offices were forced to shut. Those who could work from home did so immediately. Employers had to figure out how to communicate, collaborate, share documents, and manage teams virtually.
While no one would plan the transition this way, it didn’t take long before employers realised flexible working had benefits. Since then many CEOs have promised working from home as part of their companies’ futures. Employees want it too. There’s been a shift amongst employees towards companies that offer flexible working as part of the job and it’s obvious why.
Benefits of flexible and remote working
The most appealing benefit to many is the flexibility to meet personal and family obligations and life responsibilities. Flexible hours allow employees to work at a time when they are most productive, feel freshest, and enjoy working. The fact that there is no commute means there’s more time to spend with loved ones or pursue interests.
Allowing employees to choose their own hours gives them an increased feeling of personal control over their schedule and work environment. It increases productivity and satisfaction and has a knock on effect on retention. Built-in flexibility also reduces employee burnout as they can take breaks when they need them most.
Being able to build in flexible working arrangements, such as changes to hours, term-time working or job shares, empowers people to have greater control and flexibility in their working life. It leads to increased employee morale, engagement, and commitment to the organisation. It also reduces employee turnover, absenteeism, and tardiness. The flow of projects and work increase as employees are able to work when they are most productive.
Flexibility and options to work remotely are proven to attract and retain talent. They promote inclusion and create opportunities for people who can’t work standard hours or get to a place of work. They also save organisations a huge amount in rent costs.
Remote Working Strategy
Working from home seemed like a pipe dream in 2018, but the ultimate remote working experiment of 2020 has led to a seismic shift in the way we work and it will never go back to the way it was pre-pandemic.
The government is encouraging businesses to embrace remote working and facilitate employees who wish to work from home, long after the pandemic has ended.
Under the National Remote Working Strategy launched in January, new legislation gives employees a legal right to request remote working. There is no guarantee they will get it, but if the employer doesn’t have good grounds for refusing, the employee can bring a case to the Workplace Relations Commission.
The HR Group, CIPD Ireland, had its annual conference – ‘Designing the Future of Work’ – recently. It said the next challenge facing companies is balancing the new demands of workers with the realities of operating a business. Their research shows employees know there is another way to work and they want to have a say in how it rolls out.
So, what is needed to make working from home possible long-term and how can employers and employees avoid the associated pitfalls? The answer is management. We have talked about the benefits of remote and flexible working, which are many, but there are also challenges.
Pitfalls for employees
Feelings of Isolation
If part or all of your team works remotely, they can develop feelings of isolation, loneliness and stress and may start to feel distant from everyone else.
Right to disconnect
Employees can experience difficulty with switching off and often feel obliged to work longer hours.In April the government signed a Right to Disconnect code of practice that means all employees officially have the right to disconnect from work to give them a better work-life balance. It gives people the right to switch off from work outside of normal working hours, including the right to not respond immediately to emails, telephone calls or other messages.
But with greater flexibility around working than ever before, it is harder to define ‘normal working hours’. Companies need to ensure there are boundaries in place to prevent an ‘always-on’ scenario, where employees are answering calls and emails outside of their working hours to facilitate others.
Employers have a crucial role in moving the remote working agenda forward. It is important that employers review their businesses to determine if remote work is suitable for their business model. Whilst remote work is an option for many employers, not all roles are compatible with remote working arrangements.
A hybrid model of working can balance the efficiencies and quality of life from remote work with the social benefits of working with others. This is the most popular option amongst workers
Pitfalls for employers
Lack of communication
One of the main pitfalls of working remotely is a lack of communication. If you don’t have a system in place, it can be easy for remote employees to miss out on work updates. Even more dangerous is miscommunication, which could be rampant without the right tools in place. A lack of communication can have a negative impact across projects and businesses.
Remote and flexible working can lead to confusion over employee availability. Managers can be unsure whether it’s appropriate to contact employees at certain times, what the employee’s core working hours are, or whether a job-sharing colleague is working or not.
In team-oriented departments, teams still need to meet from time to time, which can require set guidelines and the juggling of schedules.
Compressed work weeks can make client handovers complicated—many clients expect service 5 days a week during business hours and can be fussy when a particular employee isn’t available. For this customer-centric reason, certain client facing roles will only allow certain types of flexitime.
Working from home is not an option for certain roles, such as manufacturing and healthcare. This can lead to a two-tier workforce with employers struggling with a need for fairness when only certain employees can work remotely.
Need for structure
If an employee requires structure, and many do, they may find it difficult to focus on work while not in an office. Despite the pandemic and people successfully working from home, there is still a stigma that those working from home are not working as hard as their office based colleagues.
Solutions for remote & flexible working
A formalised system for managing remote and flexible workingallows the employer and the employee to take control of their time. The benefits of a tailored time-management solution are numerous and far-reaching, enabling employers to dedicate the required time to high priority projects, allowing real-time reporting for expenditure, and assessment of which hours and schedules are most profitable for their business.
At FlexTime, our IT solutions help businesses to give employees the work-life balance they want and increase productivity, employee retention, and enable employers to easily manage and monitor remote working schedules.
In the case of large-scale retail or manufacturing businesses (or those managing large groups of employees working set shifts), FlexTime can facilitate better roster management, attendance monitoring and increased productivity through real-time data analysis.
It’s important for all employees to feel fully supported and not feel they are being monitored. FlexTime solutions acts as an ‘honest broker’ between both the employer and the employee because the welfare of both groups are considered.
Far from being a ‘one size fits all solution’, FlexTime helps solve the needs of the employer and employee by offering a two-way solution that allows everyone to be at their best in the working environment. FlexTime systems can be tailored to suit the needs of every business and its employees. There are also many ‘off the shelf’ service offerings, which are also highly effective.
How to effectively manage time as a resource
FlexTime’s VisionTime system offers the latest in innovative and agile technology for all time-management solutions, whether it’s fixed, flexible or remote. The system is easily installed and without modification. It helps businesses plan and manage work-schedules. This enables greater flexibility and productivity. It reduces absenteeism, the need for overtime, job turnover and it provides increased accountability amongst employees.
FlexTime offers additional and tailored services that include everything from project management to getting a deeper understanding of business needs, to system installation, full training on effective usage of the software, as well as ongoing customer support.
FlexTime’s HR solution uses the latest technology to increase efficiency of the hiring, onboarding and compliance processes. Much of the process is automated, which helps to reinforce policies and minimise errors. It allows businesses to reduce costs and focus more on employees.
What’s more, FlexTime’s rostering solutions help support Covid-19 social distancing protocols, allowing users to see how many staff members are in an office and what hot desks are available at any given time.
The advantages of flexible and remote working outweigh the pitfalls but good management is critical to their success. With the correct infrastructure, systems and support in place the challenges can be overcome and companies can step confidently into the new working normal.