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Agile and Home Working Part 1



In many areas of business, the 9-5 job for life model, so much a feature of our parents’ and grandparents’ world is now being supplanted by a range of different responses to the demands of employees and the needs of business.


Many potential employees are being priced out of city centres, meaning that employers are finding it harder to fill job vacancies. Those who are lucky enough to find jobs in cities find that commuting costs will rapidly gobble up their pay packets.


One of the responses to this situation is a phrase that you may have encountered - ‘agile working’.


This is an approach where employees are given the opportunity to choose where, when and how they work. Agile working offers maximum flexibility and imposes minimum constraints to enable employees to work effectively and efficiently. It does so by making use of new communications and information technology.


However, it’s not the same as flexible working, which is usually an employee-centred solution to achieving a work-life balance. Agile working is a more organisational response, driven by business needs.


Benefits


The business can benefit from adopting agile working practices in many ways, including:

  • An increase in staff motivation

  • A reduction in property costs and expenses

  • Lower fuel and parking costs

  • Longer business hours

  • Improved employee performance

  • Making the organisation attractive to high quality talent

  • Increased productivity and efficiency

  • A reduction in absenteeism and the costs that accompany this

  • Reduced staff turnover

  • A workforce that can respond to fluctuating customer demand

  • Increased innovation

  • Reduction in the effect that the organisation has on the environment


Benefits for employees include reduced travel time and cost, personal productivity, an improved work life balance and wellbeing and increased engagement.


There are numerous technological tools to help people work in new and different ways, to meet customer needs, reduce costs, increase productivity and improve sustainability.


These include smart phones, laptops, tablets, mobile access to the internet, telephone and video conferencing, social networks and cloud-based data storage


Drawbacks and caveats


It’s still quite difficult for companies to throw off the idea that their employees have to be physically present at all times; the themes of trust and control still run deep at some organisations. It’s often easier for workers in the care or building industries to adopt a routine in which they don’t have to come in to a central office at all, except to collect new supplies.


Although the idea of dispensing with the central office building and having all employees work from home may seem very attractive to a financially-beleaguered employer, there are several things that they should bear in mind.


They still have specific responsibilities to their employees, even if they aren’t physically in the building.


The contract of employment is going to have to be looked at again in the light of any decision to adopt a more flexible working arrangement.


An employee who works from home is still covered by the Health and Safety at Work Act as well as Working Time Regulations and the Data Protection Act (and its successor legislation in the wake of GDPR).


The employees are also entitled to confidentiality standards and the right to know what the employer expects of them regarding levels of productivity.


Next time, we’ll take a look at aspects of agile working that employers need to take into account in order to avoid legal and regulatory issues.