Many organisations are planning new flexible working policies as we exit the pandemic, but what flexible workforce advantages and disadvantages should be considered?
Advantages of a flexible workforce
Wider talent pool
Hiring the ideal candidate isn’t an easy task. It can take months to find the right person for the job, meanwhile someone else is picking up the extra work. A flexible workforce removes the limitations of hiring a local candidate, and opens the role to talent across the country.
The productivity benefits of remote working aren’t a complete surprise. A study of 16,000 remote workers back in 2013 found the practice increased performance.1 The gain in productivity was attributed to a quieter, more convenient working environment, along with fewer breaks and sick days. Several more recent studies confirm productivity whilst working from home outshines that in an office setting.
Now is the time for a flexible workforce
A shift in the way we work has long been on the cards – technological advancement and the fourth industrial revolution is a huge flexible workforce advantage. Now, businesses have access to a global workforce.
Video conferencing may have exploded during the pandemic, but it has been around for some time. The work landscape was already transforming to support remote and hybrid working. The pandemic accelerated this and now many of the technology barriers that had previously prevented people from working at home are gone.
Employees want flexibility
A significant number of businesses are preparing for a hybrid work set-up. A recent study found that nine out of ten organisations are likely to combine remote and on-site working post pandemic.
And there is strong evidence that employees want it too. 67% of employees who worked remotely during the pandemic believe a flexible model of work is ideal for them.
It would appear an irreversible path has been set in motion. If it plays out positively, hybrid working will become a powerful lever for attracting talent and retaining staff in the future.
Disadvantage of a flexible workforce
Managing split teams
One of the biggest disadvantages of a flexible workforce is the challenge it poses to managers. It’s complacent to think employees can thrive in both an office and at home with a single management style. Therefore, managers will need to upskill to effectively manage split teams.
A big challenge will be how to make sure employees who are working remotely still feel part of the in-office team. Video calls should be encouraged, and remote workers must be invited to collaborate with those working on site. The onus will be on managers to ensure an even playing field.
One of the biggest disadvantages with a remote-first flexible workforce is spontaneous interaction. Communication tools, such as Slack, for example, can help to a certain degree. But as businesses move to a flexible work model, managers will need to continue to explore communication solutions that keep everyone connected across the team.
A seamless culture
Maintaining company culture in a flexible workforce is significantly more challenging. Employees will require encouragement, support and the right tools to feel like they are part of a team and connected to the business vision. Managers will be responsible for ensuring this runs seamlessly from the office to working at home.
The office space
Workplace set-ups will also need to change. The experience in the office needs to be more than it was before. Workplaces need to be inviting and offer something more to employees than working from home. Otherwise, why even bother coming in? Workspaces must be designed to encourage creativity and foster collaboration, with more breakout areas than before.
Is a flexible workforce right for my organisation?
The flexible workforce has many advantages and disadvantages. Each organisation will have to weigh up their needs and decide what approach to a flexible workforce is suitable. Decide which approach works best for you with our breakdown of flexible working blog.
But what do your people think? Survey them for free with our culture risk assessment to identify where your people are struggling whilst working remotely, and where they are thriving. Our action plans will break down the data and give you clear actions you can take right away to improve employee engagement whilst working remotely.
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