Flexible working that works for everyone

Ciaran Rowsome, CEO FlexTime
Ciaran Rowsome, CEO, FlexTime

Companies can thrive in the ‘new’ working normal with the right tools

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21 June 2021 | 0

In association with FlexTime

As Covid-19 spread through the world in early 2020 and offices were forced to shut, those who could work from home did so immediately. Employers had to quickly adapt in order to communicate, collaborate, share documents, and manage teams virtually.

While no one would plan the transition this way, it was not long before employers realised the benefits of flexible working. Since then, many CEOs have promised working from home as part of their company’s future. Employees want it too. There has been a shift among employees towards companies that offer flexible working as part of the role, and it is clear why.

 

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Employee benefits

To many, the most appealing benefit of remote working is the flexibility to meet personal and family obligations and life responsibilities. Flexible hours allow employees to work at a time when they are most productive, feel freshest, and enjoy working. The fact that there is no commute means there is more time to spend with loved ones or pursue other interests. 

Allowing employees to choose their own hours gives them an increased feeling of personal control over their schedule and work environment. It increases productivity and job satisfaction and has a knock-on effect on retention. Built-in flexibility also reduces employee burnout as they can take breaks when they need them most, not necessarily when the employer believes they should.

Employer benefits

Being able to build in flexible working arrangements, such as changes to hours, term-time working or job shares, empowers people to have greater control and flexibility in their working life. It leads to increased employee morale, engagement, and commitment to the organisation. It also reduces employee turnover, absenteeism, and tardiness. The flow of projects and work increase as employees can work when they are most productive. 

Flexibility and options to work remotely are proven to attract and retain talent. They promote inclusion and create opportunities for people who cannot work standard hours or get to a place of work. They also save organisations a huge amount in rent costs.

Remote Working Strategy 

Working from home seemed like a pipe dream in 2018, but the ultimate remote working experiment of 2020 has led to a seismic shift in the way we work. Things will never return to how they were pre-pandemic. 

Now, the government is encouraging businesses to embrace remote working and facilitate employees who wish to continue to work from home after the pandemic has ended. Under the National Remote Working Strategy, launched in January, employees have a legal right to request remote working. There is no guarantee they will get it, but if the employer does not have good grounds for refusing, the employee can bring a case to the Workplace Relations Commission.

The HR Group, CIPD Ireland, recently held its annual conference Designing the Future of Work. There, it said the next challenge facing companies will be balancing the new demands of workers with the realities of operating a business. Its research showed that employees know there is another way to work, and they want to have a say in how it is rolled out.

So, what is needed to make working from home possible long-term and how can employers and employees avoid the associated pitfalls? The answer is management. We have talked about the benefits of remote and flexible working, which are numerous, but there are also challenges.

Pitfalls for employees

Feelings of isolation: If part or all of your team works remotely, they can develop feelings of isolation, loneliness and stress and may start to feel distant from everyone else. 

Right to disconnect: Employees can experience difficulty when switching off and often feel obliged to work longer hours. In April, the government signed a Right to Disconnect code of practice which means all employees officially have the right to disconnect from work to ensure a better work-life balance. It gives people the right to switch off from work outside of normal working hours, including the right to not respond immediately to e-mails, telephone calls or other messages.

But with greater flexibility around working than ever before, it is harder to define ‘normal working hours’. Companies need to ensure there are boundaries in place to prevent an ‘always-on’ scenario, where employees are regularly answering calls and emails outside of their working hours to facilitate others.

Assess suitability: Employers have a crucial role in moving the remote working agenda forward. It is important that employers review their businesses to determine if remote work is suitable for their business model. Whilst remote work is an option for many employers, not all roles are compatible with remote working arrangements. A hybrid model of working can balance the efficiencies and quality of life from remote work with the social benefits of working with others. This is the most popular option among workers.

Pitfalls for employers

Lack of communication: One of the main pitfalls of working remotely is a lack of communication. Without a system in place, it can be easy for remote employees to miss out on work updates. What is even more dangerous is miscommunication, which could be rampant without the right tools in place. A lack of communication can have a negative impact across projects and businesses. 

Juggling schedules: Remote and flexible working can lead to confusion over employee availability. Managers can be unsure whether it is appropriate to contact employees at certain times, what the employee’s core working hours are, or whether a job-sharing colleague is working or not. 

In team-oriented departments, teams still need to meet from time to time, which can require set guidelines and the juggling of schedules.

Compressed work weeks can make client handovers complicated – many clients expect service five days a week during business hours and can be fussy when a particular employee is not available. For this customer-centric reason, certain client facing roles will only allow certain types of flexitime. 

Working from home is not an option for certain roles, such as manufacturing and healthcare. This can lead to a two-tier workforce with employers struggling with a need for fairness when only certain employees can work remotely.

Need for structure: If an employee requires structure, and many do, they may find it difficult to focus on work while not in an office. Although many people have been successfully working from home throughout the pandemic, there is still a misplaced perception that remote workers are not working as hard as their office-based colleagues.

Solutions for remote and flexible working

A formalised system for managing remote and flexible working allows the employer and the employee to take control of their time. The benefits of a tailored time-management solution are numerous and far-reaching, enabling employers to dedicate the required time to high priority projects, allowing real-time reporting for expenditure, and assessment of which hours and schedules are most profitable for their business.

At FlexTime, our IT solutions help businesses to give employees the work-life balance they want and increase productivity, employee retention, and enable employers to easily manage and monitor remote working schedules.

In the case of large-scale retail or manufacturing businesses (or those managing large groups of employees working set shifts), FlexTime can facilitate better roster management, attendance monitoring and increased productivity through real-time data analysis.

It is important for all employees to feel fully supported and not feel they are being monitored. FlexTime solutions acts as an ‘honest broker’ between both the employer and the employee because the welfare of both groups is considered.  

Far from being a ‘one size fits all solution’, FlexTime helps solve the needs of the employer and employee by offering a two-way solution that allows everyone to be at their best in the working environment. FlexTime systems can be tailored to suit the needs of every business and its employees. It also offers many ‘off the shelf’ service offerings. 

Effectively managing time as a resource 

FlexTime’s VisionTime system offers the latest in innovative and agile technology for all time-management solutions, whether it is fixed, flexible or remote. The system is easily installed and without modification. It helps businesses plan and manage work-schedules. This enables greater flexibility and productivity. It reduces absenteeism, the need for overtime, job turnover and it provides increased accountability amongst employees.

FlexTime offers additional and tailored services that include everything from project management to getting a deeper understanding of business needs, to system installation, full training on effective usage of the software, as well as ongoing customer support.

FlexTime’s HR solution uses the latest technology to increase efficiency of the hiring, onboarding, and compliance processes. Much of the process is automated, which helps to reinforce policies and minimise errors. It allows businesses to reduce costs and focus more on employees.

Additionally, FlexTime’s rostering solutions help support Covid-19 social distancing protocols, allowing users to see how many staff members are in an office and what hot desks are available at any given time.

The advantages of flexible and remote working outweigh the pitfalls, but good management remains critical to their success. With the correct infrastructure, systems and support in place the challenges can be overcome, and companies can step confidently into the ‘new’ working normal. 

www.flextime.ie 



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