What are the benefits and challenges?
Notable benefits of flexible working include increased employee motivation and productivity, reduced costs in office space, and offering a competitive advantage in the market when recruiting. There’re also lots of employee benefits such as savings (in both time and money) from reduced commuting, working patterns for work/life balances, and more autonomous working.
While there are numerous advantages, there are also challenges and operational disruptions that pose risks. For employers, there is the risk of mismanagement and abuse of the agreement. For employees, poorly managed flexible working arrangements have been found to result in intensification of work and overspill into non-work contexts, tension, anxiety, and unpaid overtime.
For some organisations, where effective communication between colleagues is a key component of the business, remote working poses other challenges. For example, for financial services firms, there’s a heavy reliance on the effective communication of key information where the smallest error could have huge financial significance. With this in mind, you have to consider the technological barriers in terms of accessing information remotely. Also, in many organisations, activities such as in-person mentoring forms a significant part of development. So moving to a more flexible work-from-home model will need to consider these complexities.
It’s also important to remember that although there may be potential for many roles to work more flexibly, it may not necessarily be suitable for all roles. While some individuals may find it easy to work from home, others may need to be in the office to access systems. Some roles may be required to be more mobile to meet clients, for example. Flexibility therefore needs to be tailored, and before enacting any flexible working practices, firms need to consider their circumstances in detail, including operational issues, nuances in their business models, and risk management.