At present the signs are looking promising for businesses reopening and employees returning to work. This raises a number of issues including whether an employer returns to the traditional office based working requirement or is prepared to introduce a degree of flexibility.
Employees have become used to the temporary flexible working arrangements forced upon them during the coronavirus pandemic and on the whole, have enjoyed the added flexibility of working from home. Many will not want to return to the previous method of working and will almost certainly make a request for flexible working.
Employees with at least six months’ continuous service with an employer have the statutory right to request flexible working and an employer has an obligation to deal with such requests in a ‘reasonable manner’ or face a tribunal claim.
Much is being said about a hybrid working model. Hybrid working combines remote working with time in the workplace, either in a set pattern or on a flexible basis. Employers will need to consider carefully whether this form of working is likely to be effective for both the business and staff morale on a long-term basis. There are many issues to consider.
From an employee perspective, flexible working can increase motivation and so assist employee wellbeing through improving work-life balance. In turn from an employer’s perspective, flexible working can improve staff retention, performance, productivity and reduce the requirement for office space. However, there is likely to be a down-side to the business in terms of reduced employee contact and the implications this can have for employee training and development, team spirit and the development of ideas.
Clearly, employers need to be considering their response to requests for flexible working. Whilst the hybrid model may not suit every business it needs to be carefully thought through and an approach developed. Equally, it must be recognised that there will always be some employees for whom flexible working is not an issue and who welcome a return to the office.
It is almost certain that requests for a form of flexible working will be made and as a business it is better to be proactive and anticipate such requests rather than adopting a head in the sand approach. The requests will not go away!
We at HRFM Consultancy can assist employers in considering their flexible working policy and in the steps required to implement such a policy.