The nature of work is changing. Employees no longer want to be tied to a desk from 9-5 (did they ever?) and aren’t afraid to leave their job if flexible or remote working isn’t on the cards. A recent survey by Deloitte showed that 33% of respondents expect to leave their job within 2 years if there is no flexibility in when and where they work.
With Millennials now making up 35% of the US workforce, this focus on flexible working is only going to persist. The same Deloitte survey showed that flexible working was the #3 priority for Millennials who are considering an employer; 50% of respondents rated flexibility as “very important”.
But what does this change in working practises mean for HR?
HR are intrinsic to the success of flexible working
HR are a fundamental player in ensuring remote working thrives. Key strategic goals, such as improved employee engagement, better onboarding for new recruits, and higher retention rates are always at the top of HR’s agenda, and remote working is 100% a factor in making these a success.
The data shows that flexible working is here to stay. But common misconceptions about allowing employees to work remotely can strike fear amongst HR teams. HR Daily Advisor report that endless distractions, a decrease in productivity, and slack working hours are all cited as being concerns for employers considering remote working capabilities, when in fact, the reality is quite the opposite.
What’s needed is a HR strategy refresh, which incorporates remote working into a tangible policy that supports both employees and employers. Without one, remote working could become difficult to manage, or worse, abandoned altogether. And when you consider the importance of flexible working in today’s workforce, and how it can positively impact HR’s strategic goals, this simply isn’t an option.
Why you need a remote working policy
A report by Upwork revealed that whilst the majority (63%) of companies surveyed had remote-working staff, more than half (57%) did not have a flexible working policy in place. Clearly a lot of companies have some catching up to do.
The rise and staying power of remote working shows a shift towards employees demanding a better work-life balance, and it’s vital that HR incorporate a suitable policy into their overall strategy to support this. Here are other reasons why a remote working policy is essential:
1) Staff still need working-hours guidelines
Some staff are more productive in the afternoons, others thrive at sunrise. Some might work their best in short bursts, and others need time to plan, assess, and perfect their work. The point is, everyone is different, and flexible working allows staff to do their job in a way that’s best for them and produces the best output.
That said, working-hours guidelines should be accounted for in your remote working policy, to ensure that staff are still available during defined core hours (say between 11am – 3pm), and that staff are putting in the appropriate time required to do their job effectively. By having a policy in place, this ensures that workload expectations can be met and protects employees from overworking. Staff based in different timezones can also be clear on when they need to attend important meetings, as these can be scheduled during the defined core hours.
2) Define your communications platform
Remote workers need somewhere to communicate with each other, be that intranet software, email, instant-messaging, or a combination of online tools. The key takeaway is that staff need an easily accessible digital workplace from where they can communicate, download documents, share ideas, and stay informed about the goings-on of your company. Defining which platforms to use and how to access them should be an essential part of your remote working policy.
3) Retain accountability
A common misconception is that remote workers are unproductive, when in fact, giving employees more autonomy leads to an increase in output because they are happier and more engaged. But with team members dispersed in different timezones or locations, managing remote teams can present challenges.
By having a remote working policy in place that outlines employee output expectations, managers can ensure that their remote team remain accountable for the work they do.
…and don’t forget to distribute your new policy!
And finally, ensure that your remote working policy is easily accessible to all staff. Display the policy on your intranet homepage, post announcements, or even set up a workflow which prompts employees to read and accept the policy to confirm they have understood it.