Flexible working can take many forms; working from home, staggered hours, flexi time and job sharing are all different types of working patterns that employees can apply for. The government has outlined that where an employee has worked for the same employer for more than 26 weeks, they have the right to make a statutory application for flexible working. Employees may choose to do this for a number of reasons, but the overwhelming factor is usually a better work/life balance.
Flexible working benefits employers
Although the flexible working policy was introduced to support employees, increasingly employers are encouraging staff to adopt this way of working, especially smaller organisations or those that are just starting up. The change has been spurred on by management beginning to understand the added value of having a flexible workforce, particularly those that work remotely. Remote working is an arrangement between a worker and the employer that they can complete their work in a location other than their specified place of work; this could be at home, on a supplier/partner's site or on the road.
One of the biggest benefits of remote working is that employees are very amenable to it. In some sectors remote working could be the make or break factor for employees deciding to take a job, giving the organisation a competitive edge with both recruitment and retention. Remote working also has a financial advantage; for employees this means less of their income spent on commuting costs and for the employer there is a knock on effect on overheads such as desk space, gas and electricity use.
Productivity is also increased in those employees that work remotely. Without having to come into an office regularly, workers are saved from routine distractions such as meetings, colleagues, and office noise. Although working at home has its own interruptions, employees who can access 'work' at any time tend to catch up whenever they can, usually putting in extra hours. Ultimately it comes down to an issue of trust. Enabling your staff to work remotely highlights to them you trust them to be professional and do what is needed to get the job done and achieve stated outcomes.
Choosing the right tools for the job
If there are challenges with remote working, it is making sure that workers have the right tools to carry out their tasks and be in a position to communicate and collaborate as and when required. Here is our recommended list of tools and resources that can support remote working.
- Laptop or similar portable computer device - Current favourites are the tablet and webbooks – lighter and easier portable options than a laptop.
- Wireless mouse - Although most devices have an inbuilt mouse, having a wireless separate alternative can be more user friendly.
- Wireless keyboard - Staff may choose to use keyboards that are integrated with their laptop/tablet device but having a keyboard is a better option for long periods spent in one place.
- Mobile phone - Complete with a spare battery especially for staff that travel for long periods are away from any power source.
- Mobile phone car charger.
- Laptop battery - Non-negotiable for employees that are away from a physical base for long periods of time.
- Rucksack, or other mobile storage option.
The following online tools can help workers to stay in touch, ensuring that a sense of team and the opportunity to communicate and collaborate are not lost:
- Instant messaging
- Google Hangouts
- GoTo Meeting
Health and Safety, Information governance and risk management guidance should be applied where appropriate.