Working from home is not a new concept, nor simply a tool for dealing with the Coronavirus. Many employers have facilitated home working to various degrees whether ad-hoc, for specific staffing groups or even as a more generic policy for staff.
With the outbreak of Coronavirus, many companies have simply extended their normal home working practices both in terms of the staffing groups or the period of time that staff can be at home.
But we are not in “normal times” and as we move to home working it is becoming abundantly clear that “working from home” also needs to incorporate “Flexible Working” and for very good reasons.
The school closures that have been mandated from the 23rd of March mean that many colleagues will not simply be working from home but also juggling work with looking after their children. Not for a week or two, but perhaps for 12 or more weeks.
Whilst the weekend was traditionally a sacred time to spend with your family, in “CoronaTimes” families will be together the entire week. The trips out at weekends will somewhat disappear as facilities close down and social interaction becomes restricted.
Adapt to stay productive
As parents and families adapt to this new reality, they will be looking to balance their parental responsibilities (which might include a degree of home-schooling) with their work-life. For many there will also be a realisation that children are unlikely to comply with your request for them to quietly study between the hours of 9am to 5pm whilst you attempt to focus on work. Those that try will likely see their levels of frustration and stress reach levels rise to such a degree that they are forced to decide between work or family.
So, organisations need to adapt not just to Home Working, but Flexible Working. For many parents the answer may lie in utilising their hitherto sacred weekends which now have less value, so that they can both look after their children and attend to their work. Colleagues are going to be far more effective at balancing their parental and work commitments over 7 days than the traditional 5.
Those parents who both work from home might take a different approach and take it in turns to look after their children which might mean colleagues have a compressed week, e.g. 3 long days (12 hours) working, with 3 days looking after their children whilst their partner works.
There are many possible patterns of working that enable staff to meet the challenge of Home Working and Home Schooling. But they all require their employer to be flexible. Fortunately, Flexible Working (Flexitime) addresses this challenge. Flexitime is not a new concept and has been around for many years. What is new is the concept of combining these together to ensure staff can be productive and successful during this unprecedented period.
Technology can Help
HR Leaders need to engage with staff and provide flexible working patterns that address their specific circumstances whilst also meeting the needs of the organisation. Essential for success is the need for a Cloud based Workforce Management tool that provides managers and staff with visibility of when their colleagues are working (essential for conferencing and communication) but avoids the associated admin by enabling all colleagues to clock in remotely so that their time is automatically recorded. The combination of flexibility and technology will ensure staff are productive whilst reducing their anxiety and stress. A New World of Work is being forced upon us through these unprecedented times and HR Leaders need to be agile and creative to help lead and navigate their organisation through these rough seas.