Victoria Brown is the Managing Director of HPC, a leading boutique HR and H&S Consultancy service to owner managed businesses across the Northwest.  In addition, Victoria the founder of oneHR, an award winning online HR & H&S software across the UK.

The last year has forced every business owner to work flexibly whether they liked it or not.   In ‘normal times’ when I work with a client to implement a home or flexible working approach, it is in a strategic and organised way. 

Through no fault of our own, we literally had days to prepare our workforce to work from home. I have heard many horror stories of excessive monitoring, back-to-back Zoom/Teams meetings with no breaks, lack of equipment, and no remote workstation assessments. 

PLANS FOR FUTURE WORKING

In a recent poll that oneHR conducted, we found that 71% of people plan to introduce more flexible forms of working in the next six months. 

So, what does this mean?  There is a bit of an illusion at present that ‘flexible working’ means just working from home.  That is the tip of the iceberg – in my opinion, flexible working needs to go beyond this, ie giving employees more control over shifts/working hours, ability to job share and I would even stretch the term to the way in which we manage an employee’s workload. 

The CIPD recently stated that employees who feel more in control tend to have a better work/life balance.  That said, it very much depends on the job role – as some do not lend themself to working from home or, indeed, altered working patterns.

Many of my clients are turning to staff surveys to establish what people want.  The common theme appears to be a ‘hybrid’ type option, with the ability to work from home some days, but also the need to be office-based for collaboration and embracing the business culture. 

If employers decide to opt for a more permanent home working approach (whether that be fully or hybrid), then they must speak with their HR provider and review contracts of employment and some key policies within their handbook.  In addition, home risk assessments must be completed, and any risk identified and managed.

EMBRACING FLEXIBLE WORKING

To embrace a flexible working approach there needs to be a shift in the mindset of managers to focus on outputs rather than inputs.  In addition, a key ingredient of successful flexible working is good communication. Therefore, it is vital that all employees receive training in order to use technology to its full advantage.  This has been a learning curve for us all and the one sentence I think we are all sick of hearing in the last 12 months is ‘Can you hear me’ on a zoom call.

Another positive of adopting a flexible working approach is the attraction of talented women applying for more senior roles.  Within my business, 65% of the workforce is women (and I know that JDA is very similar).  That is no coincidence – our flexible approach and support of working parents is a key attraction to many women when they apply for a role.

I will be watching the next 12 months with interest to see how this all plays out.  I suspect that many organisations that have given up their office leases and reverted to complete remote working, will start to see the cracks in this ideology soon.

If you have any queries at all about returning to the workplace, working flexibly or any other HR/H&S issues please contact info@highperformanceconsultancy.com or call 0151 5561975

Or you can find out more about Victoria and her team here.