Once viewed as a benefit – or even as a privilege – flexible working is set to become the norm post-pandemic. Several studies (and infinite LinkedIn polls) have shown that, in general, people don’t want to return to pre-pandemic ways of working.
As a result, offering flexibility could be key to attracting, retaining and engaging your workforce in the post-pandemic world. We explore the benefits of flexible working, what it means for working hours and the right to disconnect, and how you can enable flexibility in a way that supports employee wellbeing, visibility and team collaboration.
Why Offer Flexibility?
Embracing flexible ways of working can deliver numerous benefits. In addition to supporting parents to manage childcare and spend more time with family; reducing the cost of commuting by around £126 a month, as well as the time wasted travelling to work; and improving employees’ work-life balance, research shows that flexible working could be a key differentiator when accepting a job offer.
In fact, research by Slack found that 36% of those surveyed find companies offering flexible hours and policies to be the most attractive employers, while 42% are worried about the loss of flexibility after the pandemic. So if you resist flexible working without good cause, you could lose existing employees to companies offering greater flexibility – as well as fail to attract new talent.
The anxiety around returning to the office speaks to a larger concern than the dread of commuting. Many people believe a return to being in the office 9-5, 5 days a week, will have a detrimental impact on their mental health. Of those surveyed, 40% said a full-time return to the office would be bad for their mental wellbeing, rising to 50% for those aged under 35.
Of course, with the rise of mental health difficulties throughout the pandemic, supporting employee wellbeing is more important than ever, and flexible working can make a significant contribution to your wellbeing supports.
What Does Flexible Working Really Mean?
Despite the numerous benefits of flexible working, it’s not without its challenges. Although many businesses have spent the past year establishing new processes to accommodate widespread remote working, while maintaining collaboration, communication and company culture, these processes won’t necessarily be suitable for flexible working.
Working flexibly means enabling your employees to work in the office, remotely, and at varying times. For managers, this makes knowing when and where your employees are working more difficult, presenting new challenges in ensuring your workforce is engaged, productive and able to collaborate across different teams.
Working Hours and the Right to Disconnect
Flexible working can also raise concerns around working hours. In the EU, and currently in the UK, businesses have a duty of care to comply with the Working Time Directive. There are many facets to this regulation, but essentially you need to ensure your employees aren’t working excessively long hours – something that becomes significantly more difficult when people are working varying hours, both at home and in the office.
Employees also have a right to disconnect from work – particularly in Ireland, where Tánaiste, Leo Vardkar, has recently signed a new Code of Practice to give all workers the Right to Disconnect. Ultimately, this requires employers to not expect employees to routinely work outside their normal hours, including responding to emails and answering phone calls, and ensure workers are not penalised for refusing to work outside of their normal hours.
But regardless of whether there’s a legal requirement in your country, supporting employees’ right to disconnect from work can deliver numerous benefits to employers and employees alike. Allowing your workforce time to rest and focus on their life outside of work helps to reduce stress and burnout, while increasing employee satisfaction and retention by providing an improved work-life balance and supporting their overall health and mental wellbeing.
This must be considered in your flexible working policy. Rather than expecting employees to take an ‘always-on’ approach, in which they can be at their desk at varying hours but are expected to be available at all times, companies should look to implement a structured approach that clearly distinguishes between home and work life. Otherwise, you could still see your employees move to a company offering a better work-life balance, despite having flexible working practices in place.
Accommodating Flexible Working
To enable flexibility while maintaining structure, visibility and compliance, you need to have the right tools in place. More often than not, this will mean investing in new technology.
One solution designed to support flexible working in multiple forms is Eppione’s HR & Employee Benefits platform. While employees can easily book days working from home, management and other team members can instantly see who is in the office, working from home, or on annual leave, in a simple dashboard.
Employees can also complete timesheets and clock in and out within the platform, both through the mobile app and online. So, you can easily track and record working hours – and, with our embedded people analytics module, run detailed reports into how many hours are being worked, where people are working, and which days are most popular for annual leave or working from home requests.
What About Non-Office Staff?
Of course, flexibility isn’t exclusively for office-based staff. Many workers cannot feasibly work from home, yet are likely to expect increased flexibility after the pandemic.
Usually, companies will require a certain number of employees to be working each day during certain hours – such as in the retail or hospitality industries, for example. But that doesn’t mean you can’t give them more flexibility.
So how can you provide flexibility for shift workers?
Giving your employees autonomy to request, accept or reject shift swap requests – and have them approved by management – can help your workforce to fit their working roster around their personal schedules. With Eppione, this can all be done quickly and easily through the mobile app, as well as online through the cloud-based platform.
If you’re able to offer more flexibility on start and finish times, while requiring employees to work a set number of hours during their working day, enabling people to clock-in and clock-out on their mobile can make recording accurate working times easy. Eppione’s mobile app allows employees to clock-in, log breaks, and clock-out at the click of a button. Sophisticated geo-fencing can also be enabled to ensure the employee is within range of the workplace.
By providing your workforce with the tools they need to manage their roster independently, while ensuring management sign-off, you can empower employees to improve their work-life balance, resulting in increased employee satisfaction, engagement and, in many cases, productivity.
Make Flexible Working Work for Everyone
Accommodating flexible working in a way that supports employee wellbeing while encouraging communication and collaboration is far from straightforward.
But with the right tools, you can empower your employees to work in whatever way suits them best, while retaining visibility into working trends and patterns.
Eppione brings all of your HR administration, employee benefits and people analytics together in one easy-to-use platform. So, while enabling your workforce to easily record their working location and hours, you can also offer more flexibility around employee benefits to further support employee wellbeing – as well as instantly run in-depth reports into a vast range of trends, habits and demographics to better understand your workforce.
To explore how Eppione can support and empower your business, get in touch with our friendly advisers, and we’d be happy to arrange a virtual demo to show you what Eppione is all about.
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