Since the UK locked down on the 23rd March 2020, many of us have been adjusting to working from home full-time. As such, lots of people predict that working from home will become more commonplace in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, with full-time office work beginning to go ‘out of fashion.’
However, we predict that working practices will go one step further as they change and evolve. Evidence suggests that businesses will instead begin to adopt work from anywhere (WFA) policies, rather than work from home (WFH) policies. This would considerably increase flexibility, productivity and employee satisfaction, when compared to WFH practices and office-based work.
WFH vs WFA, what’s the difference?
Working from home is exactly that, working from a bedroom, kitchen, living room or study in your own home. For many people this means having a desktop and traditional office-style set-up from the comfort of your own home, similarly to how most people are working during lockdown.
Working from anywhere, however, is far more flexible and can cater perfectly to the needs of the business and the employee. As long as you have the right tech, a strong WiFi connection, and an appropriate job role, you can work from anywhere. We’ve listed below some appropriate examples of places to work under a WFA policy:
- In a designated co-working space
- In a quiet café with a strong WiFi connection
- In the office
- In a library
- At home
- On the train
- At a holiday home
What are the benefits of working from anywhere?
Ultimately, WFA provides employees with more flexibility and freedom to ‘get the job done’. Many people struggle with having an abundance of commitments that must work around an office-based nine to five. For example, employees may unnecessarily use up annual leave to attend appointments at the hospital, doctors, or dentist. Additionally, for professionals with children, it’s common to have to leave work early to attend a parents’ evening, watch a performance, or pick an unwell child up from school. These unavoidable activities tend to disrupt the working day and can cause anxiety for both the employer and the employee.
However, if employees are enrolled on a WFA policy, this problem is almost entirely absolved. Instead, workers would have the right equipment and capability to work somewhere closer to where they need to be. They could also work on public transport and work from home later in the evening to make up for time lost during the day. Wherever they choose to work, employees would be given the flexibility to schedule their day in a way that works best, for both them and the business.
There are numerous surveys and statistics to prove that flexible working would benefit employee wellbeing and satisfaction. Professional HR body CIPD also reports that 29% of flexible workers experience excessive pressure and stress at work compared to 42% of non-flexible workers. Furthermore, they also found that flexible workers were significantly more satisfied with their work-life balance (65%) than non-flexible workers (47%).
Moreover, WFA opens more substantial doors for employees when considering their future. Whereas a WFH employee can pop to the shops on their lunch break, a WFA employee can consider relocating closer to elderly parents without worrying about job security (provided that their specific policy allows them to do so). Ultimately, WFA policies are the prime option for attracting and retaining talent.
Allowing employees to work from anywhere will inevitably cut down on commuting time, which will reduce instances where employees are late because of scenarios that are out of their control, such as traffic accidents or tube strikes.
Furthermore, flexible working would allow for employees to tailor their day around client meetings. For example, if a worker has an off-site meeting in the afternoon, they could choose to work from a location near to the meeting in the morning, meaning that there is no need to commute from the office to the meeting later on, freeing up time for other things.
Reduced productivity tends to be a major concern for employers when considering flexible working. However, in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many employers have had the opportunity to discover that their workforce can and do function just as effectively when working remotely.
Moreover, there is a plethora of evidence to suggest that flexible working actually increases productivity. Prior to COVID-19, Chinese travel agency Ctrip, carried out a flexible working experiment whereby they suspended all office-working for nine months. During this period they actually saw a 13% increase in productivity which they attributed to a reduction in sick days and break time, as well as a more comfortable working environment.
Additionally, the ability to WFA means that employees can choose a working environment that is best suited to the tasks ahead of them for that day. If an employee is working on a team project that involves a lot of collaboration with colleagues, it makes sense for them to work from the office that day. But, if an employee is working on an individual writing project, they could benefit more from working in a public library, where there is guaranteed silence and less distractions.
Building your team
Another benefit of implementing a WFA scheme is the opportunity to rethink recruitment tactics. Allowing employees to work from anywhere massively increases the talent pool that is available. For employees that are invited to work from anywhere full-time, location is no longer a limitation. In fact, employees could be hired from across the UK or even internationally, depending on what’s best for the business. Opportunity is also broadened for candidates who are employed to WFA on a part-time basis, with the rest of the week spent in the office. It’s likely that job applicants that live further afield would be happy to commute the extra distance to the office for a few days a week, provided they are given flexibility with the remaining days. Ultimately, giving employees the opportunity to WFA removes the limitation of physical location. Instead, your business would be exposed to the very best talent in the job market.
Additionally, if fewer employees are office-based, there is less need for businesses to invest in bigger offices. Even if employees do work in the office part-time, they could share desks with colleagues or use communal working spaces, helping to cut unnecessary business expenses.
Things that must be considered for an effective WFA policy:
- Leadership and communication – a clear message must be sent out to all employees and communication must be first class, make sure to ask for feedback and ensure that employees are happy too
- Technology – all employees must have access to the right technology to be able to work effectively from anywhere, get in touch today for more information on how we can help with this
- Company culture – collaboration tools, like Microsoft Teams, must be implemented properly and utilised fully to ensure employees stay connected and company culture is maintained
- A coherent WFA policy – this must be thorough, relevant and accessible to ensure that working remains effective and that employees are clear about what is expected of them
Prior to implementing a WFA policy, we suggest…
Getting employee feedback
It’s a good idea to directly ask your employees what they think about working from anywhere. Although studies suggest that the majority of workers would prefer to work from anywhere, make sure to check in with your team, as this may not be the case for everyone.
It’s advisable to send out an employee survey and encourage all workers to give full and detailed answers, outlining their preferences, concerns and questions. That way, when you’re compiling your WFA policy, you can make sure to address each of these factors and tailor the policy to the needs of your team.
Surveys can be carried out manually or by using employee satisfaction software like TINYpulse. TINYpulse also allows you to continuously ask questions to your team in the style of mini anonymous questionnaires. Thus, you can quickly and easily gain employee feedback before and during the process of implementing a WFA policy.
Communicating with internal teams
As well as gaining feedback across the board, listen to what your specific teams have to say. It might be a good idea to start by talking to your HR department as they may already have some insight into employee preferences. It’s also advisable to discuss policy specifics with your legal and financial teams to identify any potential logistical issues when it comes to working from anywhere.
Adapting policies for different job roles
You should create different WFA policies for different job roles/teams/individuals (depending on what works best for you). It’s best to make your policies as specific as possible; some criteria may be relevant for some employees and not others. The key is to be as clear as possible, employees will want to know what is expected of them and how to carry this out effectively.
So, now that you’re writing your WFA policy, what should you include?
Outline what the policy is for, how it fits into the company and who it covers (in terms of job role, seniority and working hours). Be as specific as possible and include any exceptions to the rule.
Example: This policy is an outline of [XYZ’s] work from anywhere policy. This policy covers every full-time and part-time employee in our sales team, provided they have worked for [XYZ] for at least three months.
A definition of what you mean by working from anywhere
The term ‘working from anywhere’ is extremely broad and will mean different things for different businesses. Make sure to include a unique and coherent definition of what it means to you, so that your employees have a clear understanding. It’s important to be specific here to prevent any uncertainty. Are there places that employees shouldn’t work from when working from anywhere? Are there certain times that workers should adhere to if not working in the office? Ensure that line managers know where employees are working from at all times and that these places align with health & safety standards. Employers still have a duty of care, whether employees are working in the office or not, so make sure to prioritise employee safety.
Example: Working from anywhere is defined as working from any suitable location during an employee’s working hours. Suitable locations could include: the office, at home, the library, co-working spaces, a quiet café etc. All suitable locations must align with health and safety standards and be relatively quiet with access to a strong and stable internet connection. Unsuitable locations include: the pub, a field, an aeroplane etc.
A description of the technology, tools and support available
List the technology, equipment and devices that all WFA employees are entitled to and advise them on how it’s used (if necessary).
Ensure that all WFA employees have access to Microsoft Office (or equivalent), collaboration tools and cloud-based data storage systems. This will enable them to easily liaise with colleagues and continue to work on tasks accordingly. List all the software/platforms that they should have access to and rectify it if any employees don’t.
Also list any ways that the company will support working from anywhere. E.g. some may subsidise WiFi routers or WiFi data passes for co-working spaces. If so, state how much of this would be subsidised and how employees can claim expenses for this.
Example: All WFA employees will be given their own company laptop which they must only use for work. No personal devices should be used for work purposes. All WFA employees will also have access to Microsoft Office, Microsoft Teams and Datto Workplace. Lastly, all WFA employees will be granted a £100 monthly allowance for office-related expenses such as WiFi. Employees must submit an expense claim to our finance department, with a VAT receipt or invoice, by the 20th of each month in order to be reimbursed.
An outline of the expectations for communication
Outline when and how employees should be contactable. Request that employees document where they’re working from and when. Also request that employees give line managers their schedules with sufficient notice.
Example: During working hours, employees must be available via Microsoft Teams, Zoom, email and/or telephone. Employees are responsible for updating their location and working hours into their Outlook calendars. WFA employees are also expected to update their Microsoft Teams status according to meetings or lunch breaks and try to reply to messages within 1 hour. Employees should check in with their managers at the start and end of every day. Employees should submit their schedules to their line managers one week in advance to allow time for review.
A schedule for WFA
This will vary depending on the company and role, but make sure to dictate how much flexibility comes with your WFA policy. For some businesses, this might mean a weekly schedule whereby employees WFA on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays but must come into the office on Thursdays and Fridays. For others it might mean that they are entitled to eight WFA days per month and have the flexibility to decide when these days occur.
Example: Employees will be expected to work from the office three days a week. They are entitled to WFA for the remaining two days. The order of these days is subject to the employee’s preference, but schedules must be submitted to their line managers with one week’s notice. Line managers have the authority to approve or reject WFA days if they do not correlate with business needs.
A list of instances where employees won’t have the flexibility to WFA
List any scenarios where employees will be expected to come into the office and won’t be allowed to WFA. This could depend on things such as scheduled meetings and seasonality, for example, employees may be required to work from the office during busy periods.
Example: Employees will be required to attend all relevant external meetings, either at the office or at the client’s site and, therefore, must adapt their WFA schedules around this. Employees must also work from the office on days when they have 121s, appraisals or company-wide meetings.
A final WFA agreement
Clarify the agreement between the company and the employee. Include who the employee is (either by name or job title) and the details of their WFA policy. Include the date the policy starts from and a date that the policy will be reviewed and amended if necessary. Ask the employee and line manager to sign the agreement, provided they’re happy with it.
Example: This is an agreement to say that …………… has been invited to work from anywhere for two days a week. It is the employee’s choice which two days they WFA, but this can be rejected by the line manager if the days chosen do not comply with the businesses needs at the time. The WFA policy applies from 01/01/2020 onwards and will be reviewed each year.
We hope that we have provided you with enough information to begin to plan your work from anywhere policies. If you would like further advice, or if you would like to discuss how technology can enable your team to WFA, please get in touch today.
Disclaimer: the advice and suggestions made throughout this article should be interpreted and adapted for what works best for your business. When creating a work from anywhere policy you should always consult your legal, HR and management teams.
To find out how Microsoft 365 can modernise your business in 2020, allowing you to excel with your team working from anywhere, download our eBook now.