Guest Blog by Paul Dunne, Head of Channel Sales UK and Ireland at Plantronics
The most recent bout of adverse weather brought transport networks to a standstill, causing untold pain to commuters and a drop in productivity for many businesses. While it might be easy to pass such disruption off as a one-off quirk of the season, the reality is that over the course of a year the number of one-off incidents caused by creaking transport infrastructure amount to something more serious.
It’s been estimated that the costs of adverse weather to the UK economy due to lost working hours can be as high as £1bn a day and that a 10 per cent fall in the productivity of the nation’s workforce for one day can cost the economy up to £600 million. These are worrying numbers for businesses, especially as such incidents are a becoming an increasingly regular occurrence.
The good news is that while these issues are caused by external factors beyond the control of businesses, minimising the impact on productivity in your organisation is firmly in your hands and, in a lot of cases, is already an established workplace policy.
I’m talking, of course, about flexible working.
For those companies that are yet to define flexible working policies, the latest round of disruption should act as a wake-up call to do so. But for the vast majority of modern companies that already have policies in place, they must make sure that their employees are ready to set themselves up to work remotely at a moment’s notice when these unpredictable situations arise.
Education and communication
Even the most comprehensive flexible working policies will have a limited impact if employees aren’t confident in executing them. Organisations must make sure that the appropriate training is provided and reference materials are readily available to build confidence and proficiency in working from home.
Being able to log onto work systems and stay connected to the business from outside the office is essential, but of equal importance is providing guidance on how to create an appropriate workspace at home that promotes concentration and productivity in potential distracting surroundings.
Practice makes perfect
To help employees build confidence and comfort in working remotely, the organisation should positively encourage flexible working at times when it can be planned-for in advance. No employees should be trying to work remotely for the first time when external factors have forced them to do so without an advanced warning.
Tools and technology
Arguably the modern organization is built on a communications model that suits a distributed workforce. Face-to-face interactions are kept to a minimum in many office environments, with e-mail, messenger groups and online collaboration tools coming to the fore.
What this means is that working remotely is less of a step-change than it would have been even a few years ago. Regardless, technical difficulties, such as accessing work servers and emails, risk undermining the productivity gains of flexible working. If it takes hours to get up-and-running, then the benefits from not having to brave a delayed (and inevitably bad-tempered) commute are as good as wiped out.
From a hardware perspective, a work laptop with the appropriate security, access rights and programs is a given in most organisations. Less common, but arguably just as important, is the provision of a portable wireless headset that ensures comfort and quality when joining the numerous conference calls that are a feature of many modern businesses that have multiple sites and established flexible working policies.
If employees spend hours on calls then making sure they are comfortable and clear wherever they dial-in from is a must.
The flexible festive season
With more adverse weather inevitably on the way, it’s time companies and HR teams made sure their flexible working policies work as well in-practice as they do on-paper. Both employees and employers should take this opportunity to put their policies to the test, set a productive home-working environment and iron out any kinks before more snow strikes and it’s too late.