So, the last 12 months have been bizarre, to say the least, and the old normal has been replaced with new words, new ideas and new ways of living including many of us working from home. Just this week the Chairman of Goldman Sachs (the bank) has announced that he feels that working from home is an ‘aberration’. Not the normal way to describe an aspect of flexible working that has enabled many businesses to continue to trade over the last 13 months.
Society talks about returning to normality, but will we ever return to how things were before the world was turned on its head, due to this global pandemic? Or should the question be, do we want to return to how things were?
Living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms have been transformed into home offices overnight. Many businesses having to face the challenge of remote working with Teams and Zoom meetings being the only way to have “face to face” contact.
So, is homeworking the way forward? Should it continue even when we can forget social distancing? And what happens if more and more employees request flexible working? Should businesses encourage this or try to get people back into the place of work.
There are many pros and cons to home working. The cons include the loss of team spirit, difficulties in monitoring the standard of work and mentoring employees. The pros include reduction in overheads, flexibility with hours, and a better work life balance.
For some employees, the commute is a distant memory and they have no inclination to return to the office.
So, then what happens?
Well, here’s two considerations:
- You require the staff to continue to work from home – in this case, you may have given up on the lease of your offices and decided that the staff are to remain working from home. This will require a variation to their terms and conditions as this will mean removal of the office as the location where they work.
- They want to request to permanently have working from home as their terms and conditions. Again the employer will treat this as a flexible working request and follow their policy. You can purchase a copy of our Flexible Working Policy here.
An employer will need to consider a flexible working request carefully and fully. Why can they work from home, why can’t they work from home?
Can people do a blend of home working and working from the place of work? Or is it better for employees to be more visible and be at the place of work.
There is also the impact of social interaction and feeling part of the team to be considered. Is it sustainable to use Zoom and Teams indefinitely? Risk assessments and insurance issues are also things to consider.
For some businesses it is impossible to work from home. For others they were able to work from home, but it was very painful and was a case of muddling through, but standards not at the expected levels. Then some businesses have always offered working from home, so there were no challenges or issues.
The business needs to determine what impact working from home has on its strategic and operational plans.
And what long term affects it could have on both the business and the employees. Does it offer flexibility or does it make people feel alone and not part of the team.
We can expect employees who have flexible working requests turned down to challenge this if, in their opinion, they have worked successfully for the past 12 months.
Home working is a topic that will not disappear as quickly as we were forced to do it.
If you need any assistance with any aspect of managing a remote workforce, please call us on 01527 306066.