Covid-19 Workforce Digitalisation Series: Flexible Work Arrangements

July 15, 2021
Izza A.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has unexpectedly changed the economy and the perspective of organisations, particularly those of business owners. Largely in part due to technology and connectivity advancements, business owners are realising that collaboration and work tasks can be completed using flexible work arrangements.

Flexible work arrangements or (FWAs) are alternate work schedules and settings that differentiate from the traditional work setting. Flexible work arrangements allow employees to choose when and how they will best perform their responsibilities, while maintaining consistency in quality expected from supervisors and employers.

Although flexible work arrangements may appear to only be favourable to employees, there are indeed benefits to be enjoyed by the employer, and FWAs can also indirectly help to save the environment as well.

Employee Benefits of Flexible Work Arrangements

Perhaps the greatest benefit employees of flexible work arrangements enjoy is work life balance. The freedom to choose when and where work tasks will be completed gives employees the ability to properly care for their children, elderly family members, or other ad hoc matters without compromising the quality and output of their work.

Another benefit for employees working under a flexible work arrangement is that there’s no need to waste time and expenses to commute to the workplace. Flexible work arrangements do not force employees to work in the office, or work in the office during a set time, so employees are able to eliminate the time wasted to travel and can use that time productively on work tasks.

Finally, flexible work arrangements have been found to boost work productivity, morale, and overall satisfaction. The freedom granted to employees help to ease an incredible burden associated with a traditional office setting; therefore, employees are less likely to suffer work burn out, or use sick leave.

Employer Benefits of Flexible Work Arrangements

Employers have spent thousands to millions of dollars annually either on building attractive workplaces or renting attractive workspaces in order to support the traditional idea of work.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, as HR consultant Emily Draycott Jones stated, has led employers to move away from the traditional thinking that productivity is contingent upon set hours within an office environment.

Thus, flexible work arrangements give employers the opportunity to cut down on expensive office space and expenses.  

The benefits and boost in productivity employees enjoy as a result of flexible work arrangements correlate to a decline in work tardiness and excessive time off. Employers therefore can scale back expenses related to paid time off plans and stress related to work tardiness.

Environmental Improvements of Flexible Work Arrangements

Heavy traffic is mainly responsible for gas emissions, which adversely impacts global warming. Since the pandemic began, it has been reported that carbon emissions have been eased as a result of lighter traffic congestion.

With more flexible work arrangements implemented, it is anticipated that more cars will be off the roads which in turn reduces traffic congestion. Flexible work arrangements can essentially help slow or even reverse climate warming.

Elements of a Flexible Work Arrangement

Flexible work arrangements are composed of three elements: flexible working hours, flexible time off, and flexible location. All of these components work together to create arrangements that best fit both the employer and employee.

1) Flexible Working Hours

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and organisations only allowed its employees to work during business hours. Flexible work hours expand beyond the traditional work hours so that employees are able to work different shift times. Alternatively, flexible work hours may also compress the work week from 5 days or more to 4 days or less.

2) Flexible Time Off

Flexible time off not only includes paid time off or long-term leave, but also considers paid lactation breaks for nursing mothers or medically recommended breaks for employees with demanding conditions or are easily susceptible to medical conditions.

3) Flexible Location

Flexible location gives the employee the freedom to choose their workspace. If employers decide to keep the office open, employees can decide to work in the office, in their home, or wherever they feel is the most productive.

How to Implement Flexible Work Arrangements

For business owners who want to incorporate flexible work arrangements into their organisation but are unsure how to start, the following steps are recommended:

  1. Distinguish essential work office personnel and personnel who can work remotely.
  2. Determine which tasks are flexible and not required to be addressed during traditional work hours.
  3. Be transparent and empathetic with your communications. You likely have employees that have dealt with COVID-19 stress at some point. Choose to listen and respond with compassion.
  4. Focus on employee wellbeing management through encouraging engagement and motivation.
  5. Become open-minded to restructuring paid time off benefit perks.

The COVID-19 global pandemic has created a new normal many organisations and businesses were not prepared for, which may have led to a temporary decrease in performance during remote working. However, if the right steps are implemented, we can see an increase in productivity and output, even more so than when working from the office.

From strict stay-at-home orders to social distancing, all of our movements and travels have been limited in a way they never have been before. It is important that during this time more than ever, businesses and organisations adapt by implementing flexible work arrangements.

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