Working conditions that increase productivity and improve employees’ lives shouldn’t need a global pandemic to come into effect.
For many of us, the odd day working from home was a perfectly normal part of our week in pre-coronavirus times. But some employers had remained resolutely inflexible in the face of requests for remote or flexible working conditions from their employees over the past few years.
Despite evidence, technology and overwhelming workforce demand supporting more flexible working conditions, many businesses still insist on having their staff glued to an office chair from 9am until 5pm.
Initiatives like Mother Pukka’s Flex Appeal, which launched in 2015, have sought to make the case for employees who otherwise have little choice but to comply with their employer’s expectations or find a new job. While Flex Appeal and others have had considerable successes along the way, it seems like Covid-19 might have the unexpected consequence of going beyond the efforts of campaign groups and normalising remote and flexible working.
Given the current situation, and suggestions that lockdown restrictions in the UK might last as long as six months, working from home is going to be ingrained in every office-based organisation in the country before we all return to work.
It is hard to imagine the genie being put back in the bottle. Even in testing circumstances, employees and employers are both going to need productivity to be demonstrated over the coming weeks and months if they are to weather the coronavirus storm – and that is going to create some compelling empirical evidence for people wanting to prove they should be allowed to work remotely after the virus is under control.
Working in learning technologies, we already see that the communication, performance management and training tools are available for the vast majority of office-based staff to be able to work remotely at least some of the time. We work with organisations that are dependent on training large numbers of staff working in various different locations around the world – a 9-5 mentality doesn’t work when your people are scattered across time zones.
Companies that want their employees to continue working during the pandemic are having to put similar technologies in place, even though they may only be a few miles apart.
The outcome seems likely to be that many businesses will emerge from the current crisis with a wealth of infrastructure, evidence, demand and experience in support of remote working. It is difficult to see how things could go back to the way they were.
Increased flexibility over location, working hours, commuting conditions and childcare considerations ought to become the norm – and we expect increased productivity to follow.
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