A positive outcome for employees in this new post-COVID-19 world is we are seeing flexible and remote working becoming more common in the workplace. However, while these arrangements can be extremely beneficial for employees looking for better work-life balance, this can leave employers open to new workplace issues including bullying, discrimination and an increasing lack of accountability from some team members. Without being physically in the office and through the absence of face-to-face contact, we are hearing some employees are becoming more abrupt in their interactions with others and in some cases, deliberately distancing themselves from their managers.
In the current employment market, candidates have high expectations around having some flexibility and remote working options. To stay competitive, employers should be willing to meet some of these new demands. But the key is getting the balance right. Employers need to protect themselves as well as offering flexible working arrangements that maintain employee engagement, connectivity, accountability and productivity.
In a recent Brisbane Times article, Spike in workers bullying, blackmailing bosses while working from home, the director of Brisbane law firm NB Lawyers, Jonathan Mamaril, said he had seen working from home leading to some challenging scenarios. This included employers being deliberately left out of Zoom calls, management being bypassed, employees refusing to give up computer hardware and in one instance, an employee gaining access to salary figures across their organisation and using this to demand a pay rise. Cases such as these flag the need for employers to safeguard their business.
It’s not all bad news though. Carroll Consulting’s recent industry study into the impacts of COVID-19 on the legal profession found the majority of working from home arrangements had not led to a dip in productivity at all. What is clear is each organisation needs a framework in place to ensure employees regularly check in with their managers, work-in-progress meetings are held daily if necessary to ensure transparency and collaboration and clear KPIs are agreed on, providing employees with accountability and ownership over their work.
Employers need to have a good conversation with their team before introducing more flexibility – ‘how are we going to make this work?’. By getting the team together to collectively agree on a plan you are setting the expectations from the start and in addition to implementing policies and procedures, hopefully ensuring a successful working environment.
Without structure and team buy in, the detrimental impacts could include:
- Physical and mental health issues
- A negative effect on company culture and the potential deterioration on the business
- A stifled ability to engage with staff – not just socially but being able to train, develop and upskill people in the company
- Personal financial issues.
Our top recommendations for employers:
- Seek advice and support if you’re struggling
- Know your rights
- Develop clear policies and procedures and communicate these with your team members
- Talk to your employees, be reasonable and stay in contact!
This great Australian HR Institute article provides some tips for organisations creating more part-time roles and flexible working arrangements. Some key take outs include:
- Organisations should be willing to adapt and respond to new employee expectations
- Be open to alternative arrangements, including job sharing
- Build more collaborative places, fewer fixed desks and a more mobile workplace
- Design roles for the individual hours, allowing for administration, team management and other non-task specific activities.
These 1-2 years following COVID-19 will see many cases of trial and error as we work together to shape a new way of working moving forward. But being proactive and clear on how it will work within your business from the get-go will help you keep pace with candidate and team expectations and ensure the new working arrangements complements your already strong organisational culture.
If you would like to discuss more, I’m always happy to chat.