Providing a flexible working environment not only helps to boost morale and retain existing staff, but it also helps your organisation attract new talent with 69% of working parents detailing they would choose to apply for a role offer flexible working opposed to one which did not. The Government is also looking to provide flexible working as a day one right for all employees, opposed to just those with 26 weeks service as it currently stands.
With much of the workforce working remotely over the last 18 months, we have all seen that there is both pros and cons to having team members working from home. To get the best of both worlds, many organisations are now adopting a hybrid approach to flexible working. This approach sees staff split their time between working in the office and working remotely.
When considering if this approach is suitable for your organisation and your team there are a number of factors to consider, some of which are outlined below.
Whilst some job roles can be completed remotely, or at least on the majority of tasks, some roles simply require individuals to be in the workplace. For those who are unable to work from home you could look at other ways you could provide flexibility to promote a good work life balance, such as creating a level of flexibility in working hours.
New employees require training to effectively perform their role, whilst training can be conducted virtually, knowledge is often absorbed by individuals physically working alongside colleagues. It is important when welcoming new recruits that the support is in place to allow them to flourish in their role. Having new starters work in the office with other team members not only helps them learn more about the role and the organisation, but it also enables them to feel part of the team and builds engagement.
Although many ‘office based’ roles can be carried out remotely, we lose the in-person element to our teams. Many organisations have relied on technology to allow them to communicate over the past 18 months, however in person communication promotes strong working relationships, enables a continuous sharing of information and enhances innovation.
You may wish to stipulate that whilst some roles can and have been completed remotely, employees will be required to work a percentage of their weekly hours in the office to foster innovation, healthy working relationships and organisational culture.
Whilst many staff have enjoyed the flexibility that working from home has offered, many have also found working from home to be detrimental to their wellbeing. It has been reported that since working from home a large number of staff are actually working longer hours, finding it hard to separate work from home life when both are happening in one place. Some employees simply do not have the space or facilities to work comfortably from home. Whilst employees living alone may also struggle with isolation, those with busy households may find working from home difficult due to noise levels or interruptions. It has been very much the case of ‘same storm but different boats’.
An individual’s personal circumstances must be considered when thinking about their location of work, and if a hybrid approach is adopted, the split of hours between the office and remote working.
Customer and client care must be a consideration at the forefront of the decision-making process. By allowing staff to work remotely, are you able to provide the same level of service to your customer base? If you require staff to be in the workplace to ensure calls/emails are answered at the times customers are contacting the organisation, could you look to implement a rota? A hybrid approach would lend itself to this approach by ensuring that a minimum number of staff are in the office, or always working core hours, whilst allowing staff to have flexibility to work remotely or flexible hours on the days they are not in the workplace.
Employees with caring responsibilities
Many staff have caring responsibilities, and it is essential that employers understand and support these caring needs on a case by case basis. When considering working hours and location of a team ensure, where possible, that appropriate measures are taken to support these individuals. By unreasonably refusing a request for flexible working for an employee with caring responsibility the organisation could be at risk of facing a discrimination claim.
By having clear policies in place regarding your approach to ‘the new normal’ in your place of work, you will provide a clear set of expectations for employees. The policy needs to highlight that different roles and teams are likely to have different requirements and therefore a different approach to working location and hours. It is also essential we look at employees on a one by one basis and remember that all employees with over 26 weeks (as it currently stands) have the statutory right to submit a formal request for flexible working.