Like it or not, firms will need to adopt some form of flexible working policy for the long-term. The lockdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic may have taken companies by surprise and led to a scramble to set up temporary remote working capabilities, but they also caused many people to reevaluate their work arrangements, and there are few signs that employees want to go back to normal.
Indeed, several surveys have shown that many employees who have become familiar with the benefits of home working will expect this option to be available full time. One study by The Harris Poll, for instance, revealed 56% of US respondents said they would prefer more flexibility in being able to work from home occasionally or exclusively, while in the UK, research by O2 found a third of people expect to work from home at least three days a week in future.
But offering flexible working isn't just about reacting to changing employee expectations. It can also bring a wide range of benefits to a business, including higher productivity, improved morale and a better work-life balance - if these policies are implemented correctly.
If you're looking to implement a flexible working program, it pays to see how other firms have done this successfully. Here are a few companies that have been getting it right.
Tech firms are typically well-placed to offer flexible working, and Dell has over a decade's experience in building up a flexible working culture. It allows workers to choose their hours and work remotely some or all of the time, keeping in touch with tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams. With 60% of its workforce taking advantage of this, it has also enabled the firm to cut down on its office space, leading to savings of around $12 million a year in overheads.
A 2019 study rated machine learning provider Appen as the world's number one firm for remote working, with it connecting over a million remote contractors around the world. As well as essential technology tools like videoconferencing and a community forum where workers can troubleshoot issues and socialize, team leaders take specialist courses to better manage remote workers and ensure they're engaged with the company culture.
3. Transport for London (TfL)
The organization responsible for public transport in London has been recognized for its 'staff first' ethos, topping a previous survey for the best organization in the UK for work-life balance, which sees agile working supported by a range of other policies.
Healthcare firm Humana also regularly appears on lists of top companies for flexible working, with around half of employees working remotely at least some of the time since it overhauled its practices to promote agility in 2016. The firm has sought to introduce new technology so that even workers who would traditionally have been office-based, such as contact center agents, can work from home or even hotdesk within the office while retaining access to all the tools they need to do their jobs effectively.
Consumer goods firm Unilever has long embraced agile working, offering adaptable work programs and technology that "allows people to perform their job anywhere, at any time". As well as informal flexible working policies, it also offers more formal arrangements such as job-sharing and reduced hours to help employees. Workers have highlighted the support from senior leaders for these practices and the level of trust placed in employees as key elements of its success.