Government legislation recently came into effect that makes UK businesses consider all employee requests for flexible working. These newly available options for employees include working part-time, flexi-time and compressed hours, as well as working from home altogether – giving employees a choice over how and when they work.
The number of people working from home, or using home as their base, has been rising steadily in the UK, reaching a record 4.2m (nearly 14 per cent of the workforce) in the first three months of 2014, according to the Office for National Statistics. As working legislation changes to adapt to the increasing demand for a more flexible work-life-balance, companies will have to follow suit or face repercussions from the Government and from current and prospective employees wanting to embark on smarter working schemes.
These initiatives are not limited to the UK either, with Barack Obama recently issuing a Presidential Memorandum to enhancing workplace flexibilities in the United States. While these legislatures are a clear sign that flexible working is becoming more widely adopted by governments, many businesses – especially those with a global footprint – will need to put the right foundation in place to ensure they can accommodate employee demand for increased flexibility without having adverse affects on business and productivity.
Despite progressive changes in the law, fears persist among businesses, and SMEs in particular, that accommodating flexible working will increase business costs and compromise on their efficiency or productivity. If businesses are to fully adapt to this new way of working, they will need to put the right foundations in place to ensure they utilise the full power of their workforce.
There’s a breadth of communications and technology tools, such as video conferencing or instant messaging, that can help companies manage a flexible workforce. No matter where or how their employees are working, business owners will need to keep their workforce united, and so investing in tools that can support collaboration and efficiency will be key.
So, how can businesses fully embrace this new way of working?
Evaluating Processes To Enable Flexible Working
The downside of flexible working is that communication can be more difficult and if businesses are to feel confident in their ability to maintain and improve productivity, they need to address any co-ordination complexities that arise from employees working either flexi-hours or off-location.
Organisations with a national or global footprint will likely have some measures in place to support this already with services such as video conferencing, which help initiate an instant face-to-face conversation without the need to have everyone in the same office. However, all businesses – both big and small – will need to ensure that they have the right foundations to enable employee productivity.
Breaking The Mould Of A 9-5 Working Day
The 9-5 working model is rarely applicable to London, where international companies find the need to connect with other businesses across different time zones and offer employees earlier start and later finish times than more traditional, inflexible, working hours.
Research from Blue Jeans Network revealed that across London, the peak hours for activity are spread more broadly, starting at 7am and slowing down at 9pm, compared with the rest of the EU where days begin at 8am and wind down at 6pm, implying that London has embraced a “flex-working” mentality in order to accommodate the international nature of the business conducted.
When this new legislation takes effect, workers and their employers will have the option to negotiate working hours that ensure their utmost productivity; for example, if an employee has a majority of American clients, they could perhaps log on from lunchtime to early evening in order to connect with these colleagues.
Working Where You Want, How You Want
In addition to flexibility over working hours, the flexible working legislation will also award employees greater choice over their working location. By providing individuals with the option to work from anywhere, company employees can enjoy a better work-life balance with the flexibility to leave work early and conduct a video conference with an overseas colleague later in the evening. That sure beats staying in the office until 10pm for a meeting with colleagues in Sydney, Australia!
As governments acknowledge a shift towards flexible working across the globe, modern workplaces will need to restructure their practices by equipping employees to work at the time and location of their choosing. By putting the right tools in place all business, small or large, can keep employees happy with the option to work in a manner most suited to them, whilst still maintaining a collaborative and efficient business unit.