Working flexibly had been on the rise even before the current pandemic led to everyone who can grabbing their laptops and setting up home offices. While many firms may have suddenly found themselves forced to find ways to help employees work remotely, plenty of others have been embracing new ways of working in ever growing numbers.
Flexworking is not just working from home – it also gives more discretion to employees in how and when work is completed too, which has suddenly become a crucial part of working the new normal as millions of workers are also contending with becoming their children’s class teachers too.
The nine-to-five at the office is suddenly no more.
But forward-thinking firms have been using flexworking to their own advantage, as well as their employees. Until the current crisis, unemployment was at record lows and firms were fighting to find and keep good staff – flexworking has been a major attraction for many for all sorts of reasons, from covering childcare, to pursuing education or even completing travel dreams.
Team members whose firms promote flexworking as an option report higher levels of job satisfaction compared to those who are in a traditional office setting, alongside lower levels of stress and burnout levels, according to research conducted by the American Sociological Association.
Of course, the traditional argument against Flexworking has been one of accountability and monitoring staff performance – how can that be done effectively if your people are not present? The key is to have a well written and well implemented HR policy to ensure everyone – employees and managers – is on the same page with the same understandings and expectations.
There is no one ideal off-the-shelf policy to adopt – just as your business is unique so are your needs, so it is important to seek help from experts and learn lessons from others about what has worked as well as what has not.
And given the concept of flexworking – at least during normal times – is to help get the most from your employees, it is important to listen to what they want and need to be effective in the role. After all, they know their jobs better than anyone else.
Clearly, not all jobs are capable of being as flexible as others – a cubicle-based admin worker may be able to shift practically their entire workload to the spare bedroom, but that is not as easy for an assembly line worker.
To that end, HR people need clear and comprehensive policies spelling out exactly how the policy can be put into practice and how employees can best make use of it – who is eligible and under what terms and conditions. These could include attendance, tenure and past performance as well as the obvious type of job itself. It may be best to start with quite limited options – they can always be expanded later.
Policies should cover expectations of how work is to be completed, including hours and equipment – both what is company provided and what is expected from the employee. For example, who is paying for broadband and phone? And if the company is providing technology, how is information or intellectual property protected?
Many managers are wary of flexible working arrangements for fear of staff confusing the home and work roles, and likewise staff have to understand the limits of their flexibility – if they are needed to be in front of a computer at certain times it must be clear. In these situations, an HR manager can become an umpire between the potentially competing needs of the firm and the employee.
And there are legal problems to watch out for, which is why seeking advice is a good idea. For example, how does your firm treat overtime? Are your employees exempt or hourly? Monitoring this is essential for both parties to avoid problems with employee classifications down the line, especially if your firm does decide to allow hourly staff to take advantage of working flexibly where monitoring is harder.
It may well be worth implementing a set trial period for the company and for staff members, so it can be reassessed by everyone to determine if flexible conditions are working for the company and the employee. The firm should also give itself the option to revoke flexworking if it is being abused.
And also important to consider are any issues of liability that may arise – different states have different rules but your firm needs to understand what the law will hold you accountable for in terms of compensation to staff – do not assume that just because the employee is at home they take on all liabilities. They do not.
Flexworking can be a valuable asset to make your company more appealing to potential employees, along with a benefits package. Noble Davis can help make sure that your employees are getting what they are looking for in a work environment. Contact us today to talk more about how we can help you create welfare and benefit plans to meet your employees’ needs.