Flexible work the winner from Covid-19

It’s sad that a virus impacting our daily lives makes us think a little differently and consider how we go about our daily lives. Even the good ol' handshake is going out of fashion!

As we speak, organisations are putting together contingency plans for their workforce to work from home or they have already put these measures in place. Having workplaces think about flexible work and putting in measures to enable across their workforce this might not be the worst thing to come out of the coronavirus pandemic.

Through organisations encouraging or forcing employees to work flexibly or work from home, this is a great opportunity to showcase how society can start looking at ways of reframing traditional thinking when it comes to working. When you talk about the workforce of the future, there are many references to flexible work and working from remote locations. This is being bought forward a little thanks to the coronavirus. Longer-term for organisations with flexible work policies, there are well-reported benefits, particularly around staff retention and engagement. But a scary fact - did you know that in Australia, ~48% employers don’t have flexible work policy!

Parents will need to work and look after their children if schools and childcare centers are forcibly closed. What this looks like will vary for every single parent and it won’t just be the mum taking the load, no, both parents will need to share as they have responsibilities. This will lead to a conversation about how both parents can achieve their work tasks and outcome all whilst juggling their families' demands. The work will not necessarily be able to be completed in the traditional 9-5 working hours, instead, it might be split between morning/night and the options are many and varied. Again, this aligns with the future of work that not everyone needs to work the 9-5 hours to get a job done. Similarly, it also demonstrates that you don’t need to be in an office sitting at a desk for 8 hours either. Removing travel to and from the office could highlight a positive business productivity outcome with employees achieving greater output with less time and no stress of the commute.

For millions of Chinese workers, this is the first time in their careers that they have been working from home and discovering the pros and cons of this forced experiment into the workplace of the future. Some managers are having trust issues with their employees if they will be able to perform their roles. Whilst employees are experiencing positive and negative implications from enjoying the increased productivity and reduced commute but on the flip side, being distracted by family.

In these times, we need to be creative about how we are working. I’ve sadly heard about a number of major trade shows that have been postponed until later in the year. The flow-on effects of this are huge for the travel and trade expo industries. On the flip side, there are digital communication activities (i.e. webinars, email campaigns, and digital demonstrations) you can consider to engage with a similar size audience all from the comfort of one's home.

I acknowledge there is a lot of bad news from this virus, so I’m trying to take a glass half full approach to look for a positive out of all this. For me, it is showing how flexible work can help an organisation. Flexible work is more than part-time and the options are many.

During this time with the coronavirus, here are some suggestions to help you and your organisation relating to change in work arrangements:

  • Flexible work hours – don’t need to work the “traditional 9-5”, but have an understanding the work will get done by the due date and this might mean 8pm at night after the kids are in bed (hopefully! but that’s another story!)

  • Time-in-lieu – do you have TIL that you could take if your organisation is quieter than normal

  • Work from home – you might not have an option for this, but something to be prepared for

  • Take leave – discuss options with your employer regarding leave

  • Compressed working week – working 5 days in 4 might be an option with longer hours

With employees working from home, here are some ideas to collaborate with your team:

  • Messaging and collaboration platforms are a great tool for this such as WhatsApp, Slack, and messaging services.

  • Have a daily phone meeting via a conferencing service could be a good way to help keep the team culture and across what everyone in the team is working on

  • Give each other a call a couple of times a day instead of sending an email, a good way to check in on each other to see how they are doing and keep communication lines open

If you do not regularly work from home here are some things to consider for your own preparations:

  • What computer will you use? Do you have a work supplied laptop or can you log into your work via your own computer?

  • How is your home internet connection?

  • Phone options, are you able to divert your work phone to your mobile? Or do you have a work phone already

  • Where will you work – do you have a study or a suitable workspace? Have a conversation with your partner so you both are able to work as needed.

  • You can claim your internet usage for work purposes, but please check this with your tax accountant

The workplace of the future might not be years away - potentially weeks! Let’s try and see the organisational benefits at this time for working parents. Many parents want flexible work arrangements from their employer and according to a recent UK research study by Capability Jane, 80% of women and 52% of men want flexibility just that. Hopefully flexible work for all employees is a winner from this uncertain time in the midst of this pandemic.

Good luck!

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