When the Covid-19 pandemic swept across the world, businesses responded by implementing indefinite work-from-home policies to keep employees safe while ensuring business continuity.
As the world takes tentative steps towards recovery, businesses have begun to recognise the merit of some of the measures that were taken to enable life to go on amidst a time of great uncertainty.
One that received a lot of attention is that of flexible work arrangements. While this no new concept, word of flexible working and its benefits began to travel as businesses around the world shared accounts of improved work-life balance, better job satisfaction, improved employee retention, and increased productivity.
Global research revealed data that leaned in favour of flexible working becoming part of the new normal of work
To better illustrate this point, here are some examples of statistics:
Businesses can save up to USD$11,000 for every employee who works remotely half the time on a yearly basis
67% of Millennial employees feel that flexible working enables better work-life balance
65% of remote employees don’t want to return to traditional in-office working conditions once the pandemic ends
51% of employees working remotely say they are more productive due to reasons such as fewer interruptions, more focused time, and quieter working environments
81% of employees would be more loyal to their companies if they were offered flexible working options
Employees can save between USD$600 to USD$6000 per year with remote work
63% of jobseekers are currently looking for roles that provide them with either remote or work from home opportunities
While there are many positive attributes attached to flexible work conditions, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Businesses that intend to transition from the regular-five-day work week to more flexible working models must consider the circumstances that are unique to them and their employees.
While some companies will benefit from a fully-remote workforce, others may find that their employees are more suited to hybrid or compressed work week models. Communication is vital during a time like this and companies must prepare themselves to adapt and respond accordingly.
Flexible work models that can help to improve employee productivity
1. Compressed work-week
In a compressed work-week, the standard 40 hour week is compressed to fit into a fewer number of days. This means that employees work longer hours on some days in exchange for an additional day off.
The four-day work week is the most common format of a compressed schedule and sees employees working four, 10-hour days instead of the usual five. Alternatively, some companies observe the 5-4-9 work schedule over a two-week period. An employee will work for nine hours per day and during the second week will take one day off.
Compressed work-weeks are often beneficial for companies with heavy workloads throughout the year and is most popular in industries such as retail, utilities, mining, healthcare services, and manufacturing.
Improved work-life balance due to additional day off.
Reduced time and costs spent on commuting.
Extended workplace operation hours.
More staff on hand during high workload periods.
Longer daily schedules can result in a decline in productivity towards the end of the day.
Different working schedule arrangements can result in understaffing during certain time periods.
Less employee supervision during certain time periods.
Scheduling conflicts can make it difficult to organise meetings.
2. Remote Work
Also known as telecommuting, remote working refers to an arrangement where an employee performs work assignments beyond the traditional workplace setting.
This is enabled through telecommuting tools such as e-mail, phone, video and chat apps. The rapid growth of digitisation has made this means of work more accessible than ever. In most cases, telecommuting is most suited for knowledge workers to perform their tasks outside the traditional workplace as opposed to jobs that involve the physical operation of special equipment, such as machinery and vehicles.
While some companies may choose to implement a fully remote policy, others may opt for a hybrid model which involves a blended workforce. The latter comprises of employees working remotely as well as at home according to an agreed-upon schedule.
According to Gallup, telecommuting provides the greatest levels of productivity with a schedule that centers around two to three days of working on-site and the rest spent working remotely.
Fewer workplace distractions.
Lowered transportation costs.
Greater flexibility in work schedules.
More environmentally friendly due to reduced greenhouse gas emissions that come from employees commuting to and from work the workplace.
Companies can hire employees without having to worry about geographic restrictions.
More opportunity for creating a diverse, international workforce.
Compromised workplace culture due to less personal and social contact between colleagues.
For some managers, the lack of control and insight they have over how their team members utilise their time can make it difficult to supervise their employees.
Solving technical or IT-related complications can throw a wrench in productivity.
Having employees spread across multiple unmetered devices and networks can make it difficult for organisations to protect themselves against security threats.
School schedules, care obligations and transport conditions are important factors that influence an employees’ ability to get work done. For those where remote working isn’t the only solution, companies can offer flextime.
This lets employees customise their own working schedules and is especially beneficial for companies whose team members have very different sets of personal commitments and responsibilities.
Flexitime lets employees choose when they start and complete their workday as well as when they take their break. All of these are usually set according to agreed upon limits that have been discussed with their line manager to maintain fairness and transparency across all departments.
As one of the newer working models to have surfaced in recent years, flextime is often used as an example of what the modern workplace looks like. It’s used by companies such as Dell and Flexjobs and is regarded as a key strategy in attracting and retaining staff.
For companies that implement flextime and need to manage employees on so many different schedules, one of the best practices you can observe to minimise disruption is to set core office hours where everyone must either be onsite or online.
This helps to make sure that everyone is accessible and avoid difficulties in scheduling meeting, communication, and etc. Setting up effective communication channels and task tracking systems will also ensure that productivity won’t be compromised.
Employees work at a time that is most suited to them which can result in higher productivity and uninterrupted workflow.
Minimise the need to travel during rush hour.
Reduces unplanned, emergency leave as employees have the freedom to take care of their personal commitments and schedule their work around it.
Flextime can be difficult to manage for larger companies. Scheduling meetings and tracking employee working hours can be complex without access to time and attendance tracking software.
Risk of less employee supervision and understaffing during certain time periods.
For employees, flextime requires more disciplined action to maintain and complete work.
4. Job Sharing
A job-sharing arrangement is a great way to help decrease absenteeism and promote better continuity and work coverage.
It works by splitting the tasks and assignments of a single full-time role to be managed by a team of two part-time individuals. For example, from Mondays to Wednesday afternoons, Person A will come in to the office and work in a position, then on Wednesday afternoons to Fridays, Person B will come in and resume the responsibilities that Person A managed earlier in the week.
In the United States, job sharing is a fairly common working model. It is both observed and promoted by the federal government as an opportunity to provide flexible employment for workers who need to juggle their professional lives with family obligations, are pursuing an education, or simply want to lighten their workload without having to quit a role entirely.
Improved problem solving and more diverse experience by having two individuals work on a single task.
No need for additional expenses for the company.
Easier handover and continuity of skills and knowledge if one employee decides to leave.
Employees can maintain their careers while having more time to attend to their personal need.
Heavy workloads can be lightened.
Finding two individuals with compatible work styles can be challenging.
Changing or replacing a job partner can be difficult.
May require greater administrative needs due to the complexity of splitting a single role.
Need for additional supervisory time.
May result in inconsistent quality of work.
5. Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE)
Developed by Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler as a workplace strategy for American consumer electronics retailer Best Buy, ROWE is a management strategy that favours performance over presence. Employees are evaluated by their quality of work and results instead of the number of hours worked or their attendance.
The ROWE system prides itself on creating a culture of opportunity and shifts the focus to employee autonomy and creating an accountability-first mindset.
For employees of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the ROWE model has helped them establish a work environment built on trust and empowerment. In 2014, the company went through an overhaul to make their workplace for modern and efficient and by 2019, all of their employees were equipped with the tools and training they needed to work wherever and whenever they wanted. Provided that they delivered on results.
According to Stéphane Poulin, CMHC’s Director of Human Resources Operations, “People were hesitant at first, but now we see that morale is up, employees are more engaged, and the stress associated with finding a work-life balance has decreased significantly.”
Less overhead costs as fewer employees work on-site.
Reduced absenteeism as employees can choose when they want to work.
Saves on commuting expenses for the employee.
Provides employees with greater autonomy when managing their work schedules.
Empowers employees to take responsibility over their work and ensure that their performance is reflected in their results.
ROWE can make it difficult to manage and communicate with employees due to varying, inconsistent schedules.
Employees who struggle with time-management or self-motivation may not benefit of a system like row and managers will need to be on high alert to ensure that employees do not take advantage of the freedom and flexibility a ROWE model encourages.
Cannot be implemented for all departments and industries. Employees in retail or service roles will still need to perform their work on-site.
Airswift can help you implement global workforce strategies that are best for your company
For international companies that are re-inventing their workplace strategies to become more efficient and flexible, time and patience is of the essence. Even more so when you must navigate all of this while managing a globally dispersed workforce with difference needs, cultures and value systems.