There seems to be a huge backlash occurring in the press at the moment against the new world ushered in by lockdown. Flexible working from home seems to be frowned upon, with local authorities and government bodies criticised for allowing it (headline in the Daily Telegraph today (14th Sept) – “HMRC failing taxpayers as thousands of staff shun office”).
The Ten Percent Group of companies offers everyone who works within the company the chance to work remotely and with flexible hours to suit. We have home offices & offices clients can drop into around the country (UK & Ireland) but the main ethos of the business since we started in 2000 is that we all work remotely and with flexible hours.
A recent survey of our transcribers indicated that one of the main reasons people undertake this line of work is the flexible nature of it. We don’t do a lot of fast turnaround work requiring immediate transcription, and this means that transcribers can enjoy a good work/life balance without the work taking over too much.
Is there a future for flexible working?
Yes we think so. Our recruitment business reports increasing numbers of employers not wanting to necessarily offer home working as an option to their new recruits, but they are very much open to flexible hours around other commitments.
If we go back 5 years (hard to imagine!), a lot of employers we work with (SME professional businesses) were extremely reluctant to offer any hours other than 9am to 5.30pm with an hour off for lunch (unpaid). This line of thinking was around since we started in recruitment, and only changed post-lockdown.
These days it is much more common to hear of businesses offering all staff flexible hours to fit around other commitments. It is also increasingly common to hear of employees with one main job plus side hustles that fit around this.
Remote working – dying out?
Our own anecdotal evidence of remote working options is that they work for some businesses and not others. Some firms have thrived on it, others have found it a real burden.
Generally a lot of issues around remote working come down to trust by employers and the ability to let others control their own working practices.
We are hearing in increasing numbers of businesses cancelling the option to work from home, and this is generating difficulties with recruitment as employees hold out for the remote working options wherever they can.
Trusting – difficult for some!
As an employer our company feels comfortable with employees completing work and sending it to us when it suits, provided this is within the recognised deadlines. We don’t expect to be checking in with employees every 30 minutes to make sure they are sat at their computers or to track their internet use.
Business owners we talk to on the recruitment side often report that they are fed up of checking in on their employees working from home to get an update on a piece of work, only to find them away from their offices and off walking the dog or shopping. What they have missed is that the same employee may well have completed all their work quickly in order to go and do the shopping. They will also have not spent 20 minutes discussing the weather with Colin in Accounts at the water cooler before starting the task in question. Similarly they may have got up early that morning to fit in their work around plans later in the day.
Some employers and managers have indicated that they are happy for trusted staff to work remotely, but that it is a perk that needs to be earned over time. We think this may be a feature of work in future – you earn the right to work remotely rather than have it as a perk offered to you from the outset.
Summary – remote & flexible working here to stay?
As time goes on, unless the economy stalls dramatically, remote working and flexible hours are clearly here to stay for some, and we hope that other employers do not jettison it simply because of political pressure being put on by a media with vested interests! A lot of businesses seem to be keen to keep the flexible working (provided the flexibility fits with their own definitions) and ditch the remote working. Similarly some businesses have worked out they can offer less salary and attract better quality candidates by offering remote roles. This is particularly so as remote working gets harder to find.
Unlimited annual leave is another interesting new development (we have offered it in some circumstances for over 15 years) and it will be something that may become more popular over time.