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It’s a phrase we’re hearing more and more. We’re listening to HR managers, with increasing enthusiasm, tell us that flexible working now forms part of their official employee benefits package. But what does it actually mean, and more importantly, what are the implications for businesses?
Earlier this year, the Harvard Business Review ran a Working From Home Experiment with Ctrip, China’s largest travel agent. This demonstrated a 13% increase in productivity and a 50% drop in turnover among workers working from home. Surprisingly, another outcome of the experiment was an increase in loneliness. Yes, workers actually missed the office and the company of their colleagues!
So what does this experiment actually tell us? To our minds, it’s clear. When hiring, employers have nothing to lose by offering their employees flexible working arrangements and the opportunity to work from home, and everything to gain. Some additional benefits to consider are:
• Avoiding the direct and indirect costs of replacing a team member if flexible working isn’t an option
• Improved responsiveness – especially if working in different time zones
• Engaged staff provide a better client/customer experience
• Placing trust in staff breeds loyalty and commitment
• Autonomy drives engagement and job satisfaction
• Reduced costs on office space and equipment (not to mention tea and coffee!)
With benefits like these, why then are businesses still hesitant to adopt flexible working arrangements? Strangely enough, technology is one objection we hear more often than not. While speed of internet access at home is of course going to impact communication, today there aren’t many areas without fast broadband accessibility. By investing in a remote server, employees can log on from home and works just as if they were in the office.
Unavailability for meetings and phone calls is another reason we hear quite frequently. The solution: technology! Skype and other video conferencing solutions are incredibly easy to implement and use. If there are reception issues either with slow broadband or limited phone reception, simply make it clear that meeting attendance is compulsory, and if they can’t be there via a screen, they will need to be flexible on their WFH day.
The obvious main concern is around employees not working when they should be – but if they get the work completed at home at the same pace and to the same quality that they would in the office, does it matter?
The key word in flexible working is ‘flexible’. At the end of the day, for it to be a successful working arrangement, there needs to be lots of this on both sides. From an employer’s perspective, there needs to be certain considerations in place (such as having the technology for employees to dial in or skype), and for employees, the understanding that it only works if their productivity and performance isn’t impacted.
If both parties are open to this, and the result is happier, more productive and longer standing employees then practically, the benefits far outweigh any potential risks.
Get in touch today to find out more about what candidates are truly looking for in their dream employer.