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Implementing Flexible Working During the Coronavirus Crisis

With the majority of the UK workforce now working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, the standard nine-to-five is no longer the reality for most people.

This is especially true for those working parents who now have children in their workspace, looking for ways to entertain themselves now that schools have closed for the foreseeable future. Even those without children may now find themselves having older relatives to do food shopping for, meaning they require a more flexible approach to their working day. Clearly then, adopting a flexible working policy for your business (or adapting a pre-existing one) is of critical importance for business success during this difficult period.

This isn’t a new advent for many people, however. More than half of UK employees worked flexibly in some way in the last year, according to the 2019 CIPD Job Quality Index, including flexi-time, reduced hours and working from home. But while UK law says all employees who’ve worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks have the right to request flexible working, this doesn’t mean all arrangements are fit for purpose. The CIPD research found one in five UK employees had no flexible working arrangements available to them, and two-thirds would like to work flexibly in at least one way that isn’t currently available to them. However, given the coronavirus pandemic and the need this brings for people to work as flexibly as possible, this clearly has to change.

So, what works? We’ve drawn on our own experience at Rullion and research from around the world to provide a concise guide.

Employee benefits include:

  • Ability to manage time more effectively: More autonomy typically leads to better productivity as employees feel increased ownership of their working lives.
  • Opportunity to better combine family and work: Given that a large section of the UK workforce now has children at home whilst they work, the need to balance your work and family life has never been more important.
  • Improvements in work-life balance and job satisfaction: There’s been a significant rise in the number of workers placing work-life balance as their top priority, even above salary. Read more in our candidate perspective report.

Employer benefits include:

  • Improved employer brand: At a time of heightened scrutiny regarding how companies are treating their workers throughout the pandemic, providing employees with the opportunity to work flexibly is one way to ensure strong employer brand is maintained.
  • Boosting morale: At times like these, when we are not around our colleagues and other social ties have to be limited, any way to boost morale amongst the workforce is much welcomed. Fortunately, implementing flexible working is a great way of boosting your employee’s mood and ensuring a positive working culture.
  • Enhanced engagement and productivity: It’s well-documented that happier staff are more engaged, resulting in higher productivity. This was borne out by a 2019 IWG survey of more than 15,000 professionals across 80 countries, in which 85% of respondents said flexible working made their business more productive.

Introducing a flexible work policy

So, how do you implement a policy that works for your organisation during the coronavirus outbreak?

Take a top-down approach

Buy-in from C-level down is essential. Executives and Managers should be involved in the development of your policy from the start, as well as leading the way in the adoption of flexible practices.

Incorporate flexibility as standard

Embed flexibility across company culture as the norm throughout the pandemic and indeed, even after it has finished. From new employee inductions to appraisals, make flexible working a routine part of working life for your company.

Be inclusive

As much as is practical, the same rules should apply to all, from front office staff to senior management. 

Keep the process simple

Create an easy, transparent process. Introduce guidelines so Managers and staff know what is expected.

Ensure tech is up to the task

Make sure all employees have a way to access the intranet via a secure VPN server. Make sure your VPN performs well enough to handle large numbers of users online at any given time, which is likely to be the situation for most medium to large companies throughout the crisis. Even the most conscientious employee won’t be able to do their job remotely if they can’t access the information they need. Companies also need to ensure they have robust data privacy rules and safeguards

Measure your success

You need your business firing on all cylinders as much as possible at the moment. Taking the time to assess what policies are working and what isn’t making the cut is a crucial aspect of ensuring you and your business can navigate through this difficult time. 

Whatever situation your company finds itself in due to the coronavirus pandemic, these tips should give you some useful pointers for getting started. An effective policy needs to have a core set of rules that apply to everyone, but enough elasticity to be able to be adopted to suit individual circumstances. The rewards for getting the balance right are well worth it.