man working remotely with a laptop and headphones

How to strike the right balance between remote and office working

Flexible working was already top of the employee wish list long before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Now, with 60% of workers having experienced remote and flexible ways of working, it’s time businesses consider how this can work for them long-term.

The difference between working flexibly and remotely

Flexible working means an employee can choose what hours they work (whether that’s part-time, select shifts or specific hours within a working day), whereas remote working means an employee does not always work in a physical office with their colleagues.

Both flexible and remote working have pros and cons. The key benefit of both is better work/life balance for employees as it helps workers to manage their own time. From a business perspective, managing employees who work at different times and from different locations can be tough compared to physically talking to a team 9-5 each day. This can be overcome if management trusts and values their employees to complete their tasks effectively. There’s no denying that this does take time to build and often a leap of faith and plenty of experimenting is required to get the balance right for your business.

The benefits of remote working for employees

  • Work/life balance

This doesn’t mean multitasking work with scrolling Facebook, but it does mean employees can complete “life admin” during their breaks more easily. Feeling like their overall wellbeing comes first is a big thing for employees, who’ll inevitably grow to view their working day as an enjoyable aspect of life.

  • More time

Commuting takes time, which could be better spent enjoying other activities or completing tasks at home. That extra few hours a day of free time can make a huge difference to an employee.

  • Cost savings

Research suggests workers save over £40 working from home each month as they spend less on commuting and eating out. That’s almost £500 a year – a big saving for most employees.

The benefits of remote working for businesses

  • Happier staff

The goal of every business should be to develop a workplace where staff feel happy and healthy. Working from home lowers stress levels and empowers employees. Which means when they are in the office, you’ll have their full attention and dedication. Plus, happy employees are significantly more likely to stay within a business.

  • More productive employees

Two-thirds of employees are more productive when working from home. This is great news for companies, as they get the best out of their people. Studies show that 39% of home workers will spend additional time to complete their tasks, too. This demonstrates that offering flexibility will reward your business.

  • Building the best team

70% of workers say that a job that offers flexible working is more attractive to them. If you’re looking for the best people to join your organisation, you need to offer things that matter to employees most.

  • Less pollution

Most businesses do try to keep their carbon footprint down. Obviously, the less cars on the road, the less greenhouse gas in our atmosphere. Research suggests that if people who could work from home could do so half of the time, it would save 54 million tons of greenhouse gas. Surely that’s something businesses want to contribute to.

Not all businesses are ready to incorporate flexible working. This can be for a number of reasons. However, there’s no running from it: employees will be favouring organisations that have flexible working structures in place.

Here are our top tips for incorporating flexible and remote working into your organisation…

  • Have a written policy in place

To ensure flexible working is embedded in your culture, you should have a written policy detailing your stance on flexible working. What different types are available to employees, and what is expected of those who opt in to flexible working?

Staff members who have been with an organisation for over 26 weeks are legally entitled to request flexible working – so you should be prepared to deal with these requests fairly, considering the implications on both the employee in question and your business needs. If a request is confirmed, make sure the terms of an employee’s flexible working are written down.

You should also introduce flexible working guidelines, so employees know what is expected of them. For example, employees may be required to check in at the start of a day and explain what tasks and goals they’ll complete. Perhaps you’ll have monthly or quarterly reviews to ensure flexible or remote working is going well for everyone involved.

  • Don’t compromise on service

Your staff are integral to your business, but without satisfied customers your business won’t survive at all. You must ensure that all customer requirements are met, and your standard of service remains high.

It is great news for employees if they can access remote and flexible working – but remember, it’s a benefit and not a right. If an employee’s productivity suffers, then business needs must always come first.

  • Overcoming expense

Employees may require better technology to help them complete their work effectively from home. Businesses should respond to this fairly and ask themselves if they would need to spend a similar amount on equipment within an office environment. If the answer is yes, then it’s appropriate to go ahead and ensure flexible workers have the technology and equipment they need.

  • Managing employees from home

Team members need to know what their goals and tasks are – and managers should keep track of what work is being produced, and the quality of it. It’s easy for flexible workers to slip under the radar but regular catchups and a transparent task management system should make it easy to have clear visibility of their working day and what has been completed.

  • Setting structures

Flexible working doesn’t mean employees get to pick and choose every part of their working day. You should ensure there are daily meetings in the diary, so your team know when they need to be available to chat with their team. It’s important all workers, whether working remotely or in a physical office, know it’s okay to block out “do not disturb” time in their diary. Being online and working on a project doesn’t always mean a worker is available for a meeting at short notice.

  • Combating loneliness

Often full-time remote workers can experience loneliness and disconnect. It’s important to continue to bring people together. Make extra effort to include remote workers in your in-person activities, such as a Zoom option for a fitness class or after work drinks via Skype. Don’t leave your remote working colleagues in the dark throughout the day. Instead of dropping them an email, consider video calling so they have real connections with their colleagues.

  • Lack of communication

It’s easy for home workers to go off radar. Encourage your team to be extra responsive while working remotely. In physical offices, employees can gain instant responses from their teammates so it’s natural to expect the same from those working from home if needed.

Getting the balance right

It’s clear there are both benefits and negatives to working flexibly and remotely. Businesses could consider offering some degree of flexibility, to ensure employees remain immersed in a brand physically and continue to connect with colleagues in-person, not just through a screen.

Similarly, it’s important to balance flexible working so the entire working day is covered by a suitable number of staff. Stagger working hours to ensure someone is always available within your core business hours.

Ultimately, your business and its customers must come first. But if you can ensure quality, consistent service and allow your team to work flexibly then it may be in your business’s best interests to do so.

Concerned about maintaining a good company culture whilst adopting flexible working?

No problem. That’s where we come in. We Are Wellbeing provides a range of wellbeing services designed to bring teams together. This helps ensure employees keep happy and healthy – wherever and whenever they’re working. For more information about our work, get in touch!

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