Is flexibility now a reality in the workplace? And is it really working? The assumption of control over one’s own time and deliverables does look like a great way to work and live, and it seems to be is a high priority for those entering the business world.
Decision makers in business, along with HR managers and recruitment consultants, are very much aware that both current employers and new recruits are looking for guidance and ideas as how to achieve work/life balance.
It is accepted that this balance has to form part of the workplace. Yes people still need to prove themselves, initiative is still expected, hard work and commitment are still viewed as non-negotiable – but the dynamics of employer/ employee relationship has changed.
And it is innovation in ICT that has paved the way.
The advantages of a mobile workforce can include an increase in productivity, lower total cost of ownership and a wider, more direct reach to the market.
In essence an employee should be just as effective and productive within his or her own environment, working at their own time & pace as one who clocks in at an office every day. The employee does need to be aware of the risks and challenges around promotion and receiving new projects when working predominantly from home, as the lack of regular interaction with the decision makers can impact on opportunity.
Very clear job specifications, requirements and a successful induction program are key, as is a reward structure based on deliverables. Realistically, it does mean that there has to be a business model and infrastructure that supports flexibility, and this can be a problem.
When the term flexibility is used, what does it actually mean? While it can be as traditional as different time slices in the day, it can also be about not coming into the office except for specific tasks or meeting or job sharing. This is something of a grey area because it really does depend on the nature of the business, the specific tasks assigned to that job portfolio and the market in which that business operates.
For example a Receptionist needs to be at his/her desk to allow access into the building from 8 to 5. In most cases, it just isn't practical for this to be a flexible role.
At the same time an Information and Communication Technology support and service consultant/ technician cannot enforce terms of employment that guarantees fixed daily working hours – that criteria simply does not suit the environment.
Increased traffic, child care issues, costs of business space, will all feed the flexibility model. The buzz around apps and solutions that enable employers and employees to manage functionality from outside the office, underlies the trend. The Accsys Employee Self Service being developed for smart phones is directly related to a market requirement for managers to know about resource issues wherever they are.
In the end, the level of flexibility has to be negotiated and decided upon by both employer and employee and, if both sides are committed to the concept, it can improve morale, and add real value.