The last few years have seen a huge shift in working habits. During the pandemic, of course, we were all made to work from home where possible. While there were inevitably some struggles during this initial transition – getting the right equipment at home, maintaining a healthy work-life balance, and delivering the same service to customers and clients with everyone working where they live – ultimately, people enjoyed a flexible approach to work.
Bearing in mind employers and employees made this shift to home working amidst a global crisis, it went considerably well. And now there’s a growing demand to keep the possibility of working remotely – at least part-time. In fact, when asked last year, fewer than one in ten workers wanted to return to the office full time when COVID-19 restrictions were eased.
Employees have benefited from saving money and time by not commuting to work. They’ve enjoyed spending this extra time how they please, whether that’s taking up a new hobby, spending time with family and friends, or using it to exercise. A flexible approach to work gives employees a greater choice and, in turn, can make them more productive and motivated.
How can you shift smoothly to hybrid work arrangements?
Consider the stats
We get it. There are bound to be some business concerns about working from home. Will work get done and the quality of work remain the same? What will clients or customers think? It’s natural to have some worries but consider your experience during the pandemic. Your employees managed to deliver during difficult circumstances. Imagine how they might excel under the right conditions.
The needs of your business may actually improve with flexible work – or at least stay the same. According to reports, having access to remote work increases employee well-being, productivity, innovation, and inclusion. It increases:
Innovation by 63%
Work engagement by 75%
Organizational commitment by 68%
What’s more, having the option to work from home decreases burnout at work by over a quarter (26%). Having a happy, healthy workforce is integral to any business – if flexible working improves that likelihood, it’s definitely something companies should be considering. The worries about having less immediate oversight over your team are generally unfounded.
Prioritize your employees
When offering flexible work arrangements, businesses need to consider a couple of things, including what set-up employees will have at home, as well as what the overall business expectations are in terms of communication. Being clear about what, when and how employees work avoids any misunderstandings.
Nowadays, it can feel like there’s ‘always-on’ workplace culture. People may be tempted to check their emails in the evenings or feel the need to respond to emails and messages immediately. As a business, you need to be clear that you want your employees to have a work-life balance. Offering flexibility isn’t something they have to earn by putting in additional hours.
In order to get the best out of your flexible workforce, you may also need to invest in their home office set up. There are some general guidelines about desk setups that can help you advise your workforce, but it’s always worth asking your employees what they need. Numerous guides on working fromhome mention the need to optimize Wi-Fi connections, as well as provide tips on being productive when working from home. Choose the best or most relevant advice and share it with your employees.
Look at your industry
Unfortunately, not every industry can work that flexibly. If your business is dependent on in-person interactions (such as retail) or physical activities (such as construction), then it’s unlikely you’ll be able to offer much home working – if any.
That said, if you believe flexibility is possible, it’s important to look at what competitors in your industry are doing. If no one is offering any flexibility, this could be your chance to stand out as an employer and attract the best talent. If flexible working is becoming more popular in the industry as a whole, you risk being left behind if you don’t offer a competitive proposition. In order to meet your business needs, you need employers.
Your staff is one of your best assets, so learn what you can from businesses that are successfully running remote or flexible working environments. It’s worth noting too that you shouldn’t expect everything to run smoothly immediately – there may be some bumps in the road and you may have to tweak processes as you go. That’s OK. If you’ve made the decision to build flexible working into your long-term business strategy, it will take some time to get everything right.
One of the most popular flexible working arrangements is a hybrid set-up – where employees spend some of their time in the office and some of their time at home. The exact number of days for each depends on the company and individual.
A hybrid approach gives the best of both worlds. Where teams need to collaborate with other people and it’s beneficial to be in-person, that type of work can still get done and everyone still benefits from home working perks the rest of the week.
Depending on the number of days you’d require employees to work from the office, you can still benefit from numerous benefits of remote working, such as access to a wider talent pool and saving money on office costs. It is worth spending a bit of time considering the number of days you’d like teams to work in the office as there’s a big difference between one day a fortnight and three days a week. You will also need to think about whether these days are dictated by the business or you give people the choice.
One thing to remember about all types of flexible working arrangements is that they offer the biggest benefit to employees when they have a say. There’s no point in outlining a new working structure without getting the input of your team or giving them no say in the matter. They’ll work towards the business needs in a much more engaging way if the flexible working set-up takes their needs into account.