It seems that one effect of the pandemic is an increasing likelihood that more people are going to request a flexible working schedule on a permanent basis.
Since the start of the pandemic, there’s been research exploring how people are feeling, having now had the opportunity to experience remote working to a much greater extent.
While the recent remote working experience has, of course, been enforced for most people rather than offered as a choice, how has it made them feel about the possibility of being able to do it more frequently in the future? And are businesses ready to respond accordingly?
The idea that work is always something that must be completed within set hours in a dedicated workspace certainly seems to be losing favour. Direct Line research has suggested more than 13 million people want to change their longer-term working pattern.
According to its survey, more than two fifths of HR directors are planning to give the option to work from home five days a week. Recent Deloitte research found that more than 60% of respondents would remain keen to have the choice to work remotely more often even when the pandemic crisis is over. Huawei research indicates 75% of UK employees are happier working from home and suggests around 60% would like to work remotely for at least three days a week.
There are many reasons why a more flexible way of working is attractive and beneficial
From the employee perspective, flexible working offers greater choice over how the working day is arranged. That can be useful for fitting in practical responsibilities around things like caring for example, but it can also allow people to choose to work at times of the day when they feel most alert and productive too.
Being spared the commute saves time and enables it to be spent doing something more constructive instead. And of course, it saves money as well. The environmental benefits of reduced levels of commuting – especially if previously done by car – shouldn’t be overlooked either. Flexible working can facilitate other wellbeing choices like healthier eating, taking more exercise, having work breaks in the fresh air and being able to spend more time with families.
There can be many gains for businesses too. For starters, happier employees are more likely to stay with a company. Better employee wellbeing matters to employers as well as to the individuals themselves, leading to greater productivity and engagement.
Office costs could be significantly reduced – depending on the extent to which a company decides to allow more flexible and remote working, less physical office space might be needed, offering a considerable financial saving.
Workplaces won’t suddenly all disappear of course. The camaraderie and collaboration opportunities presented by office life will inevitably still have a role to play for many.
They may well be set to have a slightly different emphasis instead, perhaps as a location where face-to-face meetings and collaborative activities predominantly take place. But it does seem clear that there will be a greater expectation of more flexible remote working by many – and businesses need to be rethinking how some aspects of work will be done in the near future.
What does this mean for HR?
For HR this may mean thinking and operating differently, both in terms of setting up employees to work this way and also for ensuring its own systems and processes are organised appropriately.
This is where cloud-hosted HR software can help, ensuring straightforward access for anyone who needs it via a range of devices. It enables HR professionals to keep connected to key systems, no matter where they are. It can efficiently enable the flow of communication while ensuring sensitive information’s maintained securely.
HR software can facilitate a whole range of activities for both HR practitioners and employees alike. It can support more transactional requirements, like holiday requests and keeping employee records up to date. But it can also underpin a company’s strategic activity too by, for example, enabling the rapid creation of a whole range of reports based on real time data, supporting activities like recruitment and facilitating the correct application of procedures in line with employment legislation.
It also has the potential to be integrated with payroll software too, reducing the risks of errors because of multiple data inputs, supporting even more extensive flexibility and even enabling completely remote running of payroll if required.
The status quo has been challenged by the pandemic
Given how clear it’s become that greater flexibility does not have to mean compromises over productivity and performance, a return back to exactly how things were previously seems unlikely. Cultures are starting to shift to enable greater flexibility, and HR has a major role to play in supporting that transition. If you would like to talk to us about how HR software can play a role in enabling greater flexibility in your company please do get in touch with us.