Agile Working after Lockdown

Posted 07/05/2020 : By: Lucy Pakes

As the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, briefs the nation on a gradual relaxing of the UK’s lockdown, many employers are starting to consider how best to bring employees back into the workplace. In our recent AHRC Twitter poll, an overwhelming 91.7% of respondents said their business would be more prepared to allow homeworking once the lockdown is lifted. Although the pandemic has brought significant pain and suffering to many, it has also provided an opportunity to reshape the world of work for many of us. In the words of New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, we can “build back better”.

Prior to lockdown, suggested barriers to homeworking would have included technology, isolation and trust. With homeworking imposed, technological barriers were quickly overcome – let’s face it, how many of us had heard of Zoom in January, much less used it? During the lockdown, many of those who were previously office-based have quickly adapted to video conferencing and logging on remotely.  

Loneliness is a genuine issue for people when working alone but not everyone feels this. According to Carl Jung, one of the fathers of modern psychology, extrovert personalities are those who derive their energy from being around other people, while introverts derive theirs from being away from others. The introverts among us may well be adapting better to remote working and in some cases may prefer it – their needs and preferences should be considered when it’s time to start re-populating the office again, as well as those of the more extrovert personalities in the team.

Going back to Governor Cuomo’s quote, do employers need to recreate the working environment and processes exactly as they were before lockdown? Can office space be saved and cost savings made by allowing employees greater flexibility around where and when they work?  At AHRC we’ve seen practical examples of employees being given specific objectives to meet by the end of a day /week but allowed to flex their hours and decide when they work to achieve them. This enables employees to balance work with caring and other responsibilities – classic agile working in action. Employees wishing to change their working pattern in any way would obviously need to raise a Flexible Working Request, but this is a fairly straightforward process.

Homeworking and flexing of hours do require trust on the part of the employer but in an adult-to-adult working relationship, this is perfectly possible. Research has regularly shown that employees who feel they are trusted tend to be more productive. In one example, a study carried out in 2014 at Penn State University in the US found that allowing employees discretion over their working time had a positive impact on productivity and employee retention.

As we start to think about a world with fewer lockdown restrictions, now is the perfect opportunity to plan for an improved way of working for the future, to benefit your employees and ultimately your business.

Contact us for support with flexible working requests and to discuss ideas on how your workplace can ‘build back better’ and become more agile post lockdown. Look out for our forthcoming series or webinars and virtual ‘on demand’ training courses on a variety of HR and Employment Law topics.

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