HomeEmployee ExperienceCultureManaging flexible working

Managing flexible working

  • 4 Min Read

Flexible working has become a key HR trend in recent years and has boomed in popularity across all types of business. There are many reasons why flexible working adds value, but there are challenges when managing it. What are these? 

Featured Image

Many see it as a key employee benefit in a changing world, with employees having either a flexible timetable or working in different locations, often resulting in a better work-life balance. Such a balance allows them to be happier, more productive and less distracted for their jobs, while also potentially removing key stress boosters such as the morning commute, or arranging childcare.

Yet there is a little-discussed downside to flexible working, namely the growing problem of workplace loneliness.

Ensuring engagement

As more of us opt to work from home, or work varied hours, co-workers are seeing much less of each other and much more of their screens. While colleagues don’t have to be your closest friends, your day-to-day relationships can be significant to feelings of happiness and satisfaction.

The Guardian recently analysed research from the University of Columbia which showed that people who engaged in pro-social behaviour with ‘social weak ties’ in their lives, such as coffee-room chats with office colleagues or the assistant in the local shop, felt happier and less lonely. However, with workers often dispersed across different locations and checking in only via email, there is much less opportunity for the small yet significant bonding moments in the day-to-day.

Furthermore, research from ADP’s Workforce View 2018 report showed that relationships with colleagues are the most motivating factor at work after pay and remuneration, with 21% of colleagues citing this as the factor that most energises them at work. So while flexible working has a number of important benefits, office relationships are also key to employee wellbeing. This isn’t only significant in terms of wellbeing and is something that can have wide-reaching effects on business success. Teams with a good rapport and strong relationships will often work better together, finding more dynamic and creative solutions to tough problems.

It’s a difficult quandary for HR. Flexible working has arrived and is here to stay, yet it cannot be denied that it can have a huge cultural impact on a business. The key things to consider when analysing your strategies and policies are your business’ and your employees’ motivations. Flexible working should always be a choice and not just done as a cost-savings plan; best practice means developing contracts based on an individual employee’s needs and capacities. Do your employees want to work remotely or are they being pushed to stay at home? And for those who do want to work from home, do they have the appropriate tools available to them?

Encourage collaboration

Wherever your employees are working, it’s critical to have them working together. This may involve investing in tech that allows for online collaboration, but it’s a critical long-term investment. For example, some companies are experimenting with virtual break rooms where remote workers can join in conversations with on-site colleagues. Different tools will suit different companies but without them you cannot promote the level of collaboration that employees need.

Companies should also ensure they utilise the easy and cheap tech that’s already available to them, and not just default to the far simpler ‘pinging an email’. It’s easy to become lazy about organising face-to-face time when it feel like you can get the job done without it, but maintaining policies that prompt workers to spend time in the office, or catching up on video chat, is an important long-term investment in your workplace environment. It could be an investment that perhaps only has subconscious effects, but these are nonetheless significant.

It’s no mean feat for HR divisions to tackle these issues, and the trend represents yet another challenge when planning for the future work environment. However, confronting them head-on, and remembering to always consider your employees’ needs, is key to a happy workforce which is still able to enjoy that much sought after work-life balance.

By Melanie Robinson, Senior Director HRBP Sales, ADP

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles

Network analysis: Differentiating explicit and tacit behaviors to catalyze culture change

Organizational culture plays a pivotal role in the success and sustainability of businesses in today's dynamic environment. A strong, positive...

  • Michael Arena
  • Jun 29, 2023

Meeting employee expectations to drive company performance

The impact of events over the past two years has created new challenges for the leaders of today. Supporting employee needs is still often tied to...

  • HRD Connect
  • Jun 7, 2023

Building peak experiences in the workplace: the power of moments

For most business leaders, ensuring their employees have rewarding day-to-day experiences at the workplace is a key goal. While it may be true that a...

  • Finbarr Toesland
  • Jun 1, 2023

The inclusion imperative: Essential pillars to creating a fully inclusive company culture

Since the beginning of the decade, the business landscape has seen an increase in the importance of culture, values, and inclusivity as defining...

  • Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic
  • Apr 13, 2023

How can we develop muscles for the unexpected and cultivate our own "smart luck"?

“Blind luck” and serendipity (“smart luck”) are two very different things. In contrast to blind luck that just happens to us, serendipity we...

  • Christian Busch
  • Mar 18, 2022

6 ways to build a thriving, people-first company culture

It’s no surprise companies look up to Zappos for inspiration. The Las Vegas-based online apparel retailer has disrupted the traditional way of...

  • Heidi Lynne Kurter
  • Sep 23, 2020

5 ways to help build communities in the modern workplace

Years from now, when we look back on the COVID-19 pandemic, one area that will most certainly stand out will be the great work that companies have...

  • Debra Corey
  • Aug 14, 2020

4 ways leaders can keep culture moving through a crisis

In many ways, a company’s culture makes up the fabric of its DNA and identity. It embodies the purpose, ethos and vision of the organisation,...

  • Sam Alberti
  • Apr 29, 2020


HRD Roundtable: Combating 'Quiet Quitting'…

08 June 2023
  • E-Book
  • May 12, 2023

HRD Network Roundtable: The Retention…

15 June 2023
  • E-Book
  • May 12, 2023

Manage change and drive value…

01 June 2023
  • E-Book
  • May 12, 2023