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Flexible working is the ‘new normal’. Are you ready?
Flexible working arrangements are not black and white.
Flexible working was gaining a lot of traction before the pandemic struck, and a year on, it would appear it is here to stay. Technology boomed, and “Let’s jump on a Zoom” became the new “Let’s grab a coffee”. This resulted in challenging ideas about the location, value, and purpose of our work.
Flexible working arrangements are not black and white. What we have experienced in the last year is a result of extreme measures to adapt to unprecedented times. Many of us currently cannot work from the office in any form due to government regulations, and it is unlikely that this model of mandatory remote work will be the ‘new normal’. With a return to a form of normality looking possible over the next six months, what can we expect?
Blended working...what does it mean?
Blended working is when staff combine working from home (off-site) and working from the office (on-site), in a way that suits both employee and employer. A blended office model is a flexible approach, and we have learnt from the last year that workers do not need to be in the same space, location, or even time zone to collaborate effectively, largely due to the ability to hop on a video call and collaborate with colleagues in seconds.
How will flexible working affect my business?
Flexible working is likely going to stick around. The model allows businesses to support flexible working arrangements and well-being whilst also providing a central, physical space. The newfound flexibility upon the return to the office needs to be smarter and safer than ever before, and there are certain factors that you will need to consider in order to fully benefit from blended working.
Safety! A number one priority. Businesses are looking for ways to implement social distancing in workspaces for as long as necessary. This can be a challenge for businesses with limited space, but due to the model of blended work, not every employee will be in the building at the same time, so don’t deactivate those Zoom accounts. “Let’s grab a coffee” may return, but with a 1-meter distance. It could be the time to invest in that ping pong table...
We are social creatures, and individuals wish to feel connected to others and be members of a group. Employees working from home have reported higher levels of loneliness and isolation. Whilst blended working does allow employees to visit an on-site space, an opportunity to collaborate with others remotely is essential.
A strong company culture plays into this, finding the right balance between remote working, flexibility and autonomy, and in-person collaboration to build lasting relationships. Everyone loves a tea break catch-up! Build in time for this so the whole team can get together, even if that requires some people joining on a big screen. Popcorn, anyone?
Businesses must also ensure that every employee has access to tech, both from home and the office. This ensures that standards of work can stay consistent, and employees feel equipped regardless of their location.
In addition, some people like structure, and there may be employees who dislike blended working due to the ambiguity that it creates. Communication is key, if you feel an employee is struggling with a lack of structure, identify processes together to help them feel supported.
There may also be some legal challenges with the shift to blended working to watch out for. Greater clarity is still required moving forward, such as legal obligations to record hours, which can be trickier with blended working. This isn’t new and exclusive to blended working, leaders have dealt with these challenges over the last year, but as we move into more precedented times, things are likely to change.
There are also health and safety considerations, exposure to claims of discrimination with which employees can work from home when, and employees have concerns over costs that arise whilst working from home, such as broadband and heating. Legislation is still developing in these areas, but an honest and open environment will help you understand where your employees’ concerns are.
The most important element of building a strong foundation for blended working is your people. Make sure any decisions you make have your people at the core. Ask good questions. Check-in with them; your conversation doesn’t all have to be task-related. A simple, authentic ‘how are you?’ could do the world of good.
Get in touch if you would like to learn how Gearing for Growth can help you have more effective conversations for a healthy and happy workplace..
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