The work from home genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no sticking that cork back in when it comes to a digital approach.
The coronavirus pandemic forced employees to work at home, disrupting the traditional office-bound practices of many businesses.
As people drift back to the workplace after many months of lockdowns and restrictions, where are we now?
In this article, we cover how you can help your employees work flexibly—and how taking a digital approach can make things much easier.
Here’s what we cover:
- The Right to Request Remote Working Bill
- Why employees want to work flexibly
- Benefits of remote and flexible working
- Digital tools to use to make flexible working a reality
- Do you have to change the way you operate?
The Right to Request Remote Working Bill
In January 2022, the Irish government introduced the Right to Request Remote Working Bill, which would request employers to have a written policy on the right for employees to work remotely.
The legislation is ample evidence that coronavirus has led to a shift away from traditional work patterns, and at its height, the pandemic resulted in many Irish workers being told to work from home for the first time.
So, what does this mean for you?
While many businesses are still adapting to new working models, it’s clear you’ll get tangible benefits if you buy into a remote working or hybrid working culture.
Irish businesses saw productivity benefits after the pandemic forced staff to work online, according to 2021 YouGov research from Sage Ireland.
We wouldn’t blame hesitation on your part, especially if you existed with an office-based culture for many years.
There can be a stigma attached to remote working, especially with some businesses not trusting their employees to be as productive out of the office as in it.
However, we’ve never had technology tools as sophisticated as we have now.
You can access technology to tackle your flexible working administrative demands. New types of digital business software allow you to focus on your core goals and provide employees with a better work-life balance.
Thanks to the cloud, you have a generational opportunity to achieve greater efficiency while building a better working environment, whether in a physical office or working remotely.
Why employees want to work flexibly
Technology has freed people from traditional working methods and the standard nine to five.
Not too long ago, remote working was usually only for roles that had limited customer-facing work and weren’t reliant on your traditional office tasks such as managing physical paperwork, and meetings with clients or colleagues.
The development of cloud-connected laptops, tablets and mobile phones, with fast and stable internet connections, has made it possible for employees to work from anywhere.
Today, you can conduct crucial business meetings through video conferencing and other invaluable communication tools.
Your employees know the tools are there to make flexible working work.
Today, it’s still legally possible to deny employees remote working, but there are plenty of other companies out there who won’t.
Today, flexibility can be more important than salary when attracting the best talent.
As we mentioned, the Irish government is looking to mandate employers to have a written policy for the right for employers to work remotely.
You’ll have to either approve or reject requests, with workers having the right to appeal a decision they’re unhappy with. You also won’t be able to penalise anybody for working remotely.
Benefits of remote and flexible working
Both you and your employees have plenty to gain when it comes to remote working and flexible working. Here are some of those benefits:
More free time
Without a commute to a workplace, an employee has more time.
Research from Trinity College Dublin in 2021 identified time-savings and environmental benefits. It said remote working three days a week could save up to 14 days of commuting time a year.
Better work-life balance
As a result of employees having more time and setting their working days, they can have more time to manage personal commitments, and look after their physical and mental health.
This will result in higher levels of efficiency and productivity, less time taken off due to stress and illness, and a workforce that’s highly motivated to succeed.
Employees can manage their own time and work around other commitments. Having to care for children or elderly parents results in many people not taking full-time work even when they want to.
The ability to choose the hours they work means an employee can manage a full-time job and other responsibilities.
Employers trust their people to set their hours and work away from a central office.
By being trusted to manage their own time and productivity, employees can take ownership of their workload, cultivating a deeper sense of responsibility.
Empower people by letting them feel in control of their working day.
Increased job satisfaction
More than a third of Irish office workers (35%) believe remote working improved their mental health, 39% said their physical health improved, and 59% believe their general work/life balance had improved.
Digital tools to use to make flexible working a reality
Businesses can now harness new digital solutions to remove the worries of the past from their strategies.
Barry Murphy is the Managing Director of Sage Ireland. He believes you can permanently remove the administrative burdens of older working models through using the digital tools at your disposal, allowing more focus on your core objectives and ensuring a better work-life balance for staff.
He says: “There is currently a wide and growing variety of digital tools to provide fast and efficient solutions to the regular administrative processes that businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, have to contend with, such as invoices, expenses and admin.”
Also, look at cloud payroll software to improve employee wellbeing.
Providing flexibility will help employees manage their work and home priorities. You should consider offering flexible start and finish times, reduced hours, and remote or hybrid working to maintain engagement.
It’s essential to look at offering extra support too.
Resources that employees can self-serve with—such as wellbeing support numbers, employee benefits and financial support schemes—can help them put their wellbeing first.
In a nutshell, embracing cloud technology to help run a business means your employees can work remotely more efficiently and manage business processes anytime, anywhere.
Do you have to change the way you operate?
Industries are showing their appetite to adapt to new technologies, with just under nine in 10 businesses changing the way they operate because of the pandemic, according to Sage Ireland’s 2021 research.
This same research outlined how businesses making their goods and services available online and accelerating their digital transformation are the most common changes you make to adapt.
“Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all with any transition in working style,” says Murphy.
“Through identifying their workforces’ diversity and employees’ specific needs in the office and outside of it, employers can create more personalised experiences to improve staff wellbeing to help with this transition.”
With reductions in stress and absences related to mental health resulting in higher employee engagement and productivity, embracing better working practices for employees and using new tools is a win-win.
Murphy concludes: “Businesses can now harness new digital solutions to remove the worries of the past from their strategies, allowing for a more dynamic working environment. This is the trajectory you should be moving in.”
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