Is anyone feeling like there has been a bit of an about turn in the whole flexible working debate? Are we seeing a backlash?
It feels like one minute the business world was chatting about flexible working, how it would work, staff productivity while at home and extolling the benefits like an easier commute, lower office overheads and how really it was the only way forward. Now, I am hearing stories of government ministers leaving messages on empty desks, “sorry I missed you!” and Sir Alan Sugar blasting people as lazy when they work from home.
So what’s happening – do people really get less done at home than when they travel to the office? Or is that old school thinking? Some managers will be of the opinion that if you can’t see your staff working then they can’t possibly be working. For some flexible working is about being able to go to sports day, wait for a delivery or just spend a day working on a project without interruptions. For others flexible working will mean being able to balance work with the rest of their life be it hobbies or caring responsibilities.
We have talked about this so much but it appears that this is one message not getting through – just because someone is not at their desk for 40 hrs a week does not mean they are not working nor does it mean they are not productive. I work PT and have seen myself sitting outside school doing a phone interview as that is the only time that suits the candidate, laptop open whilst dinner cooks or sending an email on a Sunday afternoon. Yes there need to be boundaries but my point is I am no less engaged or committed than someone working 40hrs a week.
Companies that say they promote flexible working and then insist staff are in the office on certain days or certain times are missing the point. True flexibility has to be inclusive which means it cannot be a one size fits all plan.
Other stories suggest that if people they are not in the office they might miss out with this BBC story suggesting that people in the office may get the chance to work on important projects and subsequently lose out on promotion or pay rises. Remote workers can become invisible as it undoubtedly requires a little more planning to ensure they are included in meetings or calls and technology fails can be blamed for leaving them out. When it comes to recognition it seems that being visible is key so it may be up to you to point out your achievements and let your boss know what you have done as it may not be obvious. You are just as entitled to the promotion as the office based worker.
Was flexible working a knee jerk reaction to the pandemic or is it here to stay? I think it is an option companies need to explore to avoid losing talent and to ensure they are truly inclusive but it need to be a work in progress and the message needs to be clear that it is not a cop out. The world has changed and continues to change so flexible working will allow businesses to grow and allow employees to have the best work life balance they can. Contact us if you wnat to review policies or introduce new ones.