Flexible working and managing the remote workforce

This bit of the blog is theHRDIRECTOR Magazine editorial team’s useful way of starting my thought process to put together my views, opinions and share some insight on a topic.  I like to include it in the blog as a preamble to set the context and let you know what I SHOULD be blogging about.  Anyway, here goes…

Two years have elapsed since employees with six months continuous service had the legal right to request flexible working. At the time, many employers stated that they felt uninformed, uncertain and unprepared, and a third believed they would be rendered under-resourced directly because of flexible working, while a quarter believed they would be unable to meet employees’ requests. Technology, it was hoped, would fill the gaps as businesses set about changing the way the workforce operated. Flexible and remote working, it has been long postured, has many of the attributes to accommodate the so-called agile workforce, but realistically, how much has changed? Commuters still seem to pile into work in the morning and leave at precisely the same time in the evening, as the pressure of presenteeism, in an uncertain economy, is forcing old habits. So are employers actively promoting and will employees ever feel confident enough to ask?

Now my bit…

I get seriously riled by this stuff.

The over-used remote and agile workforce mantra – often used as a covering ploy to sell off expensive real estate despite having too many people to fit in the remaining building.

The scaremongering that flexible working – meaning people could actually adapt their lives to continue to work productively for you – was a bureaucratic nightmare that unleashed the bats of admin hell to manage.

That “supervision” mentality and the feeling that unless we can see you, you’re not really working.

And don’t give me that serendipitous innovation in the corridor conversation claptrap.

Yahoo – sorry Verizon – ordered every worker to stop “tele-commuting” (the phrase alone should be banned.  Not the remote / working from home concept – just that rubbish phrase).  Yahoo was just sold for a fraction of what it was once worth so that diktat worked well then in restoring company pride, and driving up performance through trusting people.

Let’s get this straight – there’s an AWFUL lot of work that has to be in person, in the place of employ.  That still doesn’t mean flexible working cannot be accomplished but this means more like hours and patterns and not location.  So this is not just a white collar situation.  We all have the option to work flexibly – that may mean location it may mean hours, patterns and so on.

Returning to the office scenarios.  Have amazing broadband at home?  IT can enable secure access to all desktop applications and may even provide you with a work-encrypted device so that you can take advantage of your own technological connectivity and away we go.

Except it’s not just the technological stuff is it?  It’s people and their complexes and demands.

But how can I trust you’re working if you’re at home with things like

  • Televisions (who watches one of those to schedule these days anyway – on demand all the way);
  • Washing Machines (that take about 2 minutes to load and 5 to unload and hang on the airer);
  • The pets

Oh come on?  Working from home can provide some of the most sanctuary-like existence there could ever be.  Even with hanging out the washing or woe betide us all, making a salad for lunch.

Workplaces – OK offices – can be some of the most annoying, noisy, distracting, “let’s have a quick meeting about this” dis-enablers of quality work.  Yes they can also be thriving, socialised places where ideas bounce off of every perfectly white wall (with values statements painted in lime stencils).

It’s about time we stopped thinking about turning up somewhere everyday, stuck in the same commuter hell be it bus, car, tube, or train.  To be sat in the same chair, logging on to the same machine and just being sat there ALL DAY except for those annoyingly unproductive meetings, as a meaningful way to be.

Choosing where you work (if remote connection is viable) and choosing when you work (in the essence of a role that requires your presence) ought to be met with positivity about someone taking responsibility for their role and not just following a set routine.  And the bats of admin hell were not unleashed and most work carried on as before.  Just with the odd work from home day or changed hours pattern by 40 minutes.

So you’ll no longer be needing those timesheets then?

What they’re still being used?


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