- Asking staff what they are looking for or what is missing in a policy of this kind presents the opportunity to put improvements in place.
- Employers should account for the possible pitfalls by ensuring there are processes to follow.
- Some employees may choose to work in a location other than the workplace or their home, so organisations may want to reassess what they offer to ensure they are flexible for everyone.
The number of employers offering their employees the chance to work from anywhere has increased, and the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has shown that work can be done outside of the workplace without compromising on productivity and employee engagement. Indeed, in July, creative agency Waste Creative introduced a work-from-anywhere policy so that its more than 75 full and part-time staff can work from any location for up to four weeks a year.
So what should employers that are considering implementing a comprehensive work-from-anywhere policy take into account?
Work together with staff
One of the most important factors to consider when implementing a work-from-anywhere policy is to ensure there are processes and tools in place to foster effective communication between teams, departments and employees. Offering multiple options such as Slack, Teams, and Asana can help employees get the answers they need, while providing them with the autonomy to get their work done wherever they wish.
It is important that managers connect with team members who may be moving to a fully remote or hybrid-working schedule, according to Lucy Gilmore, UK HR lead at Lattice. One option is to collect feedback via a monthly or quarterly survey. “These periodic check-ins with employees allow employers to stay ahead of the curve,” she explains. “Moreover, it provides the necessary data to ensure consistency is created across the board and with employee morale. Make sure teams are also encouraged to define a set of guidelines on how to work together in this new phase, as establishing a clear blueprint is a vital tool for success and open communication.”
Understanding how employees are feeling and how engaged they are is key. Asking them what they are looking for or what is missing in a policy of this kind, offers the opportunity for employers to make improvements as a result of the feedback.
Helena Nimmo, chief information officer at Endava, says: “Above all, efforts that are made to maintain employee and team morale are critical to ensuring the cultivation of positive and productive habits. Regardless of whether employees work from their kitchen table, a café or office desk, employee engagement should remain the top priority.”
As we shift into a more digital era, it is important for businesses to ensure that all of their processes work no matter where their employees are in the world, and to deliver the right technology by taking into consideration influences they experience on a day-to-day basis.
As such, employers should account for possible pitfalls by implementing the right tools and processes to follow, with technology adoption and tolerances being considered from the initial stages of any roll-out.
While more communications technology has meant remote work has become viable, as staff opt to work from coffee shops, co-working spaces, and non-secure networks, questions around digital connectivity and security are raised, says Nimmo. “Whether it’s securing customer payment data or complying with GDPR regulation, this all must be considered. Across industries such as financial services, this is particularly apparent. Allowing access to an organisation’s information systems from places and means of communication that it does not control, brings risks that can make all the benefits of such practice unfeasible.”
With employees also able to work from a country of their choosing, employers should also ensure the policy covers factors such as time zone compatibility and ensuring that other staff and clients can be contacted at reasonable times. “It will be crucial that processes and mechanisms have been put in place to facilitate in sync communication and work,” says Gilmore. “Without this, organisations risk inefficiency and employees operating inharmoniously.”
Employers may also encounter situations where they suspect that a member of staff who has taken advantage of the policy is not actually working or that productivity is not being maintained. By providing clear and understandable objectives and performance targets that motivate staff to do well, productivity should be maintained, with continuous feedback key to avoiding issues if expectations are not being met.
This work-from-anywhere model offers the flexibility that is being discussed more post-pandemic. As the majority of organisations continue to operate a hybrid model of working, employers should continue to invest time, resources and effort into building and maintaining engagement and productivity.
Sarah Hamilton, vice president of global human experience at Workhuman, says: “The key to designing a flexible or fully remote work policy is separating what needs to be done together from individual work. Employers must dismantle their outdated routines and redesign them to prioritise flexibility, agility and collaboration. Leaders have to unlearn the idea that one size fits all when it comes to how work gets done.”
A work-from-anywhere policy can benefit staff by empowering them to better integrate their working and personal lives in a way that works best for them.
“What hybrid and remote work enables, and what employees increasingly want out of their careers, is the ability to build a life that is mutually beneficial to both halves of that work-life equation,” says Gilmore. “It can offer employees the flexibility and freedom to explore their passions in a way that will, in turn, help them to be the best employee they can be, the happiest version of themselves.”
Such a policy can be an attractive value proposition for organisations to offer staff, as it provides a greater amount of flexibility for those who may have relatives or significant others that are located overseas, and can help with talent acquisition and retention. By removing location-based limitations, it widens the talent pool and helps to step towards creating a more diverse and inclusive organisation.
However, it is worth noting that the success of a hybrid-working model can often come down to how well a business collaborates and communicates in a virtual environment. Clear communication is vital for employers and employees to combine remote and office working long term.
Think about legal and statutory issues
When considering how many weeks per year to allow staff to work from anywhere, there are a few things that employers may want to consider.
The first is complex legalisation that can impact an employee’s ability to work overseas, according to Gilmore. “This includes things like statutory entitlements, data protection laws regarding the transfer of corporate data both inbound or outbound, as well as taxation requirements for both the employee and the organisation,” she explains.
Employers should also factor in liability held for employees operating overseas, finding out if they covered under any public liability insurance or if this needs to be arranged, as the longer the duration of a work-from-anywhere policy, the greater the risk of unexpected liabilities.
Monitor employee engagement
In order to gain insight into how engaged an employee is under this policy, their digital footprint can be monitored to give IT teams greater understandings into how to improve an existing employee experience strategy.
Mapping employee technology touchpoints and journeys throughout the system, measuring time spent on certain tasks and localising journey interruptions can help improve experiences and alleviate frustrations for employees, says Nimmo.
“The key is to make sure that such data collection and usage does not cross into surveillance territory and that it actually benefits employees,” she explains. “Rather than collecting everything, being transparent about data collection, running smaller tests and anonymising data will be more beneficial and create a more compelling strategy that will attract the right talent and ultimately improve employee satisfaction and retention.”
Consider alternative benefits
Employers should also consider whether employees have the resources they need to grow and learn new skills as they shift to more remote or hybrid-working models.
“Now we are moving into an entirely different phase, this means that employees will need a fresh set of skills to thrive in this dramatically altered work environment,” says Gilmore. “[Employers should] think about how [their] organisation can support employees in building new skill sets wherever they’re logging on from, including helping them to explore passions that might lie beyond their formal job description. For example, offering a learning and development stipend that employees can use to take a university course, or learn a language, could help them to stretch their minds, think in new ways and address burnout by allow them to step outside the day-to-day of their role.”
Organisations have a responsibility to provide the right support and implement the right policies and technologies for employees, regardless of where they are based.
While the idea of working from anywhere may be a relatively new concept for many organisations, there are some significant advantages of doing so. As Nimmo concludes, the two biggest benefits for employees that work in a location away from the workplace or their home are clear communication and team morale, and making an effort to maintain both is critical.