The aim is to ensure that these employees aren’t working over their agreed hours by regularly responding to colleagues and clients late into the evening.
Yet this legislation is firmly based on the traditional ‘9 to 5’ working day mentality. With the widespread uptake of smartphones and tablets for business use, employees now have the option to work smarter and more flexibly by fitting their working hours around their personal lives. Cloud computing and software packages like Office 365 mean that employees can now work from virtually anywhere without needing to be in the office between set times.
Over the last decade it has become more commonplace to seen increasingly varying working patterns among employees, as they flex to suit their individual needs.
For example, employees might choose to work a shorter day in the office, go home in time to put their children to bed, and log back on for a few hours later in the evening. Alternatively they might work a compressed working week, with longer hours across four days giving them a longer weekend to pursue their own interests.
That said, whilst the technology to work anywhere brings many advantages, we should also acknowledge that some employees might feel pressurized to be ‘always on’.
At O2 we believe the best way to overcome this is to foster an environment and culture where flexible working is accepted – and this needs to be led from the top. Often, line managers are uncomfortable with the idea of their people working away from their desk, because they feel like they will lose control. If the senior management team is setting the example, then everyone can be more confident with the idea that out of sight does not mean out of mind.
From a personal perspective, work fits around my life, rather than the other way around. I often catch the early morning train into the office, and use this time to work and catch up on my emails. This means I can leave earlier at the end of the day to spend more time with my family. I encourage my team to do the same.
Aside from the many debates and discussions that France’s decision has caused, flexible working is something all companies, big and small, should be thinking about particularly in light of new legislation coming into effect on the 30th June this year. This will give all UK workers the legal right to request to work flexibly, so it’s important to have a structure in place to support this.
In advance of this I’d advise you to make sure your business has the right tools in place to allow your employees to fit work around their personal life, not the other way around. For example laptops equipped with Microsoft Office 365, the cloud based office system, mean your staff can work anywhere, and apps like Just Call Me mean they can dial into a conference call on the go.
Flexible working is known to improve morale, loyalty, as well as productivity, and is important to maintaining a healthy work-life balance, benefitting your business in the long run. With modern business technology it’s easier than ever to ensure that work fits around your lifestyle and those of your employees. So why ban work emails after 6pm when you could be working smarter?