12 August 2021
Share this article
Between 2016 and 2018, there was a 78% increase in the amount of job posts referencing FLEXIBLE WORK. This is according to Linkedin’s 2019 Global talent trend report; proving that Remote Work had already began sparking tremors throughout the pre-pandemic world. Regardless, Covid-19 has since catapulted Working from Home into the epicentre of the corporate community. So how do employers who are nervous about the disadvantages, successfully implement a flexible-working scheme?
Before Covid, there was Brexit, and before Brexit, The Global Financial Crisis. All of which had catastrophic consequences on the already fluctuating pound, causing families to struggle with the rising cost of living… So why is it that organisations who offered flexible working between 2012 and 2016 rose by 12.35%?
Some might say that the economic uncertainty of the last decade has encouraged employees to take back control of their income. By leveraging improved network capabilities, cloud-technology, and rising popularity of team collaboration tools like Slack, many employees were able to leave their jobs and become contractors, favouring short-term assignments to safeguard their mental health and spend time with loved ones.
Meanwhile, global mobility was also gaining traction. Companies were directing their efforts overseas to expand their audience, benefiting from the advances in technology and interconnectivity. Employers understood the need for overseas contractors to help them leave their stamp on international markets, which not only diversified their talent pool, but prepared them for the pending pandemic… A good example of this is SAP, who in 2019, embedded flexible working in their culture, enabling their employees to essentially work from anywhere months before that first lockdown. Likewise, it wasn’t just businesses who were recognising the global mobility trend. Governments were also following the trend by rewriting visa requirements to digital nomads.
Digital nomads are travelling professionals, who take a salary from a foreign country but spend it locally, contributing to the community. At the forefront of this movement, countries like Estonia, Croatia and the Czech Republic were offering visas granting entry into the EU. While states like Vermont; cities like Tulsa and regions like Northwest Arkansas were offering grants to immigrants providing they were obtaining income from another country. Since 2018, the number of digital nomads in the U.S. has more than doubled from 4.8 million to at least 10.9 million, proving that these initiatives have been effective, with just under half of those confirming they are earning the same amount as (or more than) their previous office job…
A year later, the pandemic had plunged the planet into lockdown and overnight digital nomadism went mainstream. Companies not equipped for the changes, provided little support to employees who were unhappy working from home. Those that lived in the city were paying extortionate amounts for small apartments without gardens, juggling childcare and remote schooling. Many of them took a leap towards the countryside in search of better equipped remote opportunities and companies like Spotify facilitated them after having recently announced a Work from anywhere strategy They stated that hiring outside major cities increases diversity tenfold and therefore productivity.
Covid undeniably turned a slow-moving trend into a tectonic shift. Work schedules were spliced, employees were furloughed, operations were scaled down and while some employees were spending their time with loved ones completing puzzles, others were reinventing themselves, searching for avenues leading to supplemental income. Members of Gen Z were graduating from school/university without employment to jump into. While their parents, searched for new challenges amidst redundancy risks. All of which, contributed to the record-breaking surge in entrepreneurship across the globe with the United States recording a 95% increase in new business applications And despite the now-saturated market, digital nomads continued to reap the benefits of remote-working…
• Cheaper childcare
• Flexible working hours
• Save time and money on commute.
• Relocation opportunities.
• Quality time with loved ones
With so many benefits, it’s easy to see why 98% of 3500 global remote workers would prefer to work from home for the foreseeable future. A report from Angel List and Buffer further reported that 29% of those already working from home said they would resign if ever asked to return to the offices. But it isn’t just employees who benefit from remote work. There are also countless advantages for employers…
• Office cost reduction
• Positive environmental impacts
• Better wellbeing within your workforce, mitigating sick leave and absence.
• Higher Morale amongst employees, leading to productivity.
• Increased staff retention.
• A wider and more diverse talent pool
These benefits were believed in so strongly by companies like Facebook and Amazon that they announced a predominantly remote workforce for at least the next ten years Likewise, Cloud-tech giant, Salesforce reported that they too were moving away from in-person work on the basis that “the 9-5 workday is dead” because it no longer makes sense to expect employees to work an eight-hour shift in order for them to do their jobs successfully. So, if the advantages are this tempting, why isn’t everyone doing it?
Co-CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings doesn’t think the advantages are durable and “cannot see the benefits to employers.” While smaller businesses might simply be afraid of the change- and they have reason to be…
Offering a Work from Anywhere option exposes employers to legal and compliance complications. Contractors are often ineligible for benefit plans, tax-qualified retirement, and savings plans, while employers need to be certain they are handling data correctly to avoid immigration and corporate criminal offences. They are also responsible for ensuring the legitimacy of professional qualifications.
However, the overriding disadvantage is that remote work loosens the ties between employer and employee. A displaced team who are not communicating regularly can lead to inconsistent collaboration, innovation, and productivity.
Goldman Sachs and Citigroup both state that they plan on returning to the office as soon as it’s safe do so, and they are not alone. Workday CEO Aneel Bhusri voiced similar concerns in a podcast with Fortune Leadership Next, stating Covid forced them to “fall back on their values.” Workday is renowned for its people first culture, so they instinctively looked to gauge workforce consensus. However, 25% of employees found WFH untenable. Aneel Bhusri went on to say that he doesn’t believe having a significant part of the population working remote is a good idea forever and is likely to bring people back into the office “geography by geography.”
A phased return to work is not an uncommon approach for companies. Google, Microsoft, and Ford Motor are just some of the blue-chip organisations adapting their own hybrid work plans allowing their teams to split their time between home and the office. This gives employers the opportunity to touch base with their workforce; track their progress and award them the freedom to choose. It also eliminates the risk of stunted productivity and innovation, by encouraging regular face to face meetings.
According to Insider, more than 60% of businesses are planning to adopt hybrid-working post-pandemic, proving that management are still conflicted a 100% remote workforce. Hybrid-work can offer the best of both worlds assuming that communication channels are kept open; policies are drawn up and expectations are agreed upon beforehand.
Here our Lucas Kennedy’s top tips on the implementation of a successful hybrid-working model…
Clearly establish expectations with your employees beforehand…
• What roles are consistent with remote work and what ones aren’t? Explain your rationale with your workforce. For example, it may not be effective for sales consultants, who work face to face with clients to do so remotely, as the ‘personal touch’ is significant for profit.
• How many days a week are they expected to visit the office? Provide reasoning behind these decisions. (Workday partner, PwC’s recent study suggests 3 days a week to maintain company culture.)
• What tasks are they likely to be completing at home and what are the tasks more accustomed to being completed at work? Establishing these will optimise productivity.
Will there be set working hours? Is there any flexibility to this?
Keep Communication channels open…
• Have you set up a clear method of communication prior to your employee going remote? Utilise business messaging spaces like Slack (which was recently acquired by Salesforce) or Microsoft Teams. These apps encourage ‘quick questions’ rather than lengthy emails that clutter inboxes.
• Have you synchronised calendars with your team? To ensure maximum attendance of weekly face-to-face meetings, it helps if they are consistent (same day, same time) so that employees can plan around them.
Working from home can be isolating for some employees. Have you advised them on where they can get assistance if they are struggling?
• Arrange one-on-one reviews with employees a month in to understand what’s working for them and what isn’t.
Document policies and make them accessible…
• A clear sickness and annual leave policy should be followed consistently to ensure employers are notified of absence.
• Having a clear technology policy, allows an employer to track their assets and who is responsible for them. If an employer is not supplying technology, this can also be documented.
• A health and safety policy that references a work-life balance can empower your workforce and boost morale.
• A data protection and security policy will help to protect both the business and workforce.