We have been listening about the benefits of not having rigid jobs. We have been told that there are many possible benefits of flexible working hours for employees and for employers who fully embrace it as a way of working in their company. These days, employees who are not in the office are not necessarily absent or distant. Today’s technology advance means that even if your employee might not be with you in person, video calls and conferencing mean that you can keep in touch and talk about crucial matters with several people at the same time. It is true, it is a fact: files can be shared, discussed and edited online. That is the reason why more employers offer flexible hours, but here comes the surprise: many are struggling with how to make it succeed.
It may sound crazy, but the dream come true can easily turn into a nightmare. Who would have thought that home office, adaptable time in office, new officing methods cause stress instead of avoiding it? Yet it is true. The next generation in terms of how we work is here, every time, more and more employers are adapting their ways to these procedures, and some of them are grappling. The thing is that employees are not as happy as we thought they will be, all the way around, stress remains and, in some cases, increases.
Last month, a chief director in one of these huge accountant consultant group told me that his transnational office waded gingerly into the modern world of flexible work schedules, allowing their interns to come in at odd hours so he could go back to college full time. It was a bombshell, but the fact is that it didn’t go well. The intern, who was an auxiliary to the manager of a huge client, wasn’t available midday to answer questions from the customer and was hard-pressed to quickly address concerns while he was at school. While the intern was having a mix of anger and nervousness, his boss also wondered how much his auxiliary was really working. Anyways, when needed him, he was alone in the office.
That was just the beginning of a complete disaster. They believed that to have a somewhat regimented schedule, to have people coming and going at different times creates disruption. And, at some point we can understand everyone´s point of frustration. This is the fact: the world is new for this style and flexible workplace is going through some growing pains. And having said so, we still see many businesses that are allowing variable hours – as well as work-from-home options – to attract employees in a tight labour market.
But as adoption grows, a significant share is struggling to make it work. Consultants say that’s because many companies haven’t put technology and other tools in place to ensure seamless communication and collaboration with co-workers and customers. And maybe they are right, but maybe that is not the only element that is missing. Of course, technology must be integrated as an important part of the overall strategy, no doubts. But I believe that is not the core part of the problem. The thing is that we are asking people to work differently but not telling them how to do it. If we do not explain how it is going to be operated, how are we expecting good results? Yet, you may say: if the world is new to these endeavours, how do we know the correct way to operate it?
It is about planning. Because, if there is no such thing as a plan, failure might happen. And it does. As a result, some companies are throwing up their hands and going back to traditional work policies while others are ironing out the kinks through trial and error. The gap among firms is underscored by widely varying measures of the portion of businesses with flexible hours. A spring survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 57% of organizations offer flexible schedules, up from 52% in 2015 in the United States. A separate poll by Flex + Strategy revealed that 98% of companies provide some form of fluctuating hours based on a broad definition that could include letting employees leave occasionally to pick up kids at school or go to the doctor. At the other extreme are businesses that let workers choose their own hours.
Flexible working means: attracting talent, diversity for the workplace, horizontal communication. But it is also meaning employers and employees feeling distant, inviting chaos to sit in the working table —if it is not correctly planned, and sometimes, even if it is planned. So, there are pros and cons of flexible working but, I believe that if it is done correctly, the advantages of embracing a flexible way of working for some companies could far outweigh the disadvantages. Especially for those smaller companies who might be looking to attract young talent such as students and graduates to the firm. But beware, it is not an easy topic.
Some companies don’t formalize flexible work arrangements because they want to offer them quietly to certain employees rather than across the board. That, of course, causes jealousy. Others offer flexibility but still try to reach employees during off-hours, which is a terrible practice. The shift to more flexible work set-ups has been driven by many persons, who could complete and submit their college assignments anytime, anywhere as a result of the prevalence of Wi-Fi, smartphones and email, and they also yearn for a healthy work-life balance.
According to Pew Research, say that work life is worsening, that people do not like to go to work. Maybe, that is why seventy-seven percent of employees consider flexible work a major consideration in their job searches, and some have left a job because it didn’t provide flexible work options. Businesses are responding, largely because they have little choice in the hypercompetitive labour market. Technology such as smartphones, cloud computing and work collaboration tools such as Slack also have paved the way. So has a work culture that often requires employees to answer emails late at night or on vacation. Companies can hardly ask workers to make such sacrifices without providing them more leeway to adjust their hours or location during the workday.
Pew Research also reports that families with full-time working mothers say they spend too little time with their kids. By comparison, 18% of part-time working mothers and 11% of non-working mothers say the same. For their part, working fathers are significantly more likely than working mothers to say they spend too little time with their children – fully half of full-time working fathers say this is the case. Time with children isn’t the only area where full-time working parents are feeling the squeeze – 55% say they don’t spend enough time away from their children to get together with friends or pursue hobbies, and among those who are married or cohabiting, 42% say they spend too little time with their partners. Roughly equal shares of full-time working moms and dads say they have too little time in these areas. That is where flexible working may have a good pitch. Yet it is not smoothing the stress or making the workplace a better one in some cases. But it could.
It is a matter of planning adequately. It is a matter of being serious on respecting the limits. It is about acknowledging that not every activity can be suited for this alternative, but I can testify it is a good alternative for those who understand the rules.