As the Government conducts a public consultation to shape public policy on the future of remote working, Dominique McMullan asks that we remember the value of remote and flexible working for all
As we move forward into that 'new normal' everyone keeps referring to, the opportunity to change lives is very real. For years studies have shown that remote and flexible working create happier and more productive employees, and positively impact the bottom line for business. The fact that it has taken such a drastic event as a global pandemic to highlight the benefits of remote working is disheartening. But the window is closing to ensure that, for the people that need it, flexible and remote working remains a choice.
It is important to point out that working from home, during a global pandemic, is not the same as remote working, or as a flexible working arrangement. Pandemics, as we have seen, don't really lend themselves to flexibility. Working at home during a global pandemic is not a choice. It is a stressful situation that does not lend itself to optimum working conditions. We also must recognise that working from home does not suit everyone. If you are lucky enough to have a home office, or even a quiet space in your house, you are privileged.
So what is flexible working? Flexible working happens at a time, and in a place, that results in optimum productivity for you, and your employer. That might be from a hub, from a co-working space, from your bedroom, from a different county, or from the office. It might be early in the morning or late at night. It might the office once a week. It will most likely be a combination of times and places that fit best your unique scenario. Flexible working is an acknowledgment that people have unique scenarios.
Flexible arrangements are about fitting work around people's lives, so they can do their best work. This is not just about parents, although they would be life-changing for many families. This is about people. It is about differently-abled people. It is about carers. It’s about pet owners. It’s about people who can’t afford to live in city centres. It's about rural communities. It's about people who want to be close to their parents. It's about the Gender Pay Gap. It's about mental health. It’s about quality of life.
Down to business
Remote working relies on good management, based on performance. By ensuring good communication, trusting employees, and basing work on results, not time spent at a desk, everyone benefits.
If it’s revenue that’s your issue, no problem. Remote work and flexible working benefits business. Savings are made on office space. Employees are happier and work more efficiently. Staff turnover and absenteeism is drastically reduced.
Flexible/remote working does not mean sitting at home dossing. In fact, quite the opposite. Remote working can result in employees finding it difficult to turn off. The Irish Times reported in May 2020 that Irish workers were putting in the equivalent of an extra week’s work – 38 hours – per month due to the current arrangements. This is obviously not beneficial for anyone, but the point remains. When trusted, most employees will go above and beyond.
The outrageous weekend
One hundred years ago people fought for a five-day working week. A weekend off was deemed outrageous. Henry Ford was among the first to introduce it, and once the results became clear, the rest of the world followed suit. Productivity went up. More money was made. People were happier. Laws and lives were changed. This can happen again.
The world has changed. We have technology we couldn’t have dreamed of when the current five-day, 9-5 template was designed. We are already using the technology that would make this new way of working possible. Meetings could happen on Skype, discussions over WhatsApp. Remote working would mean an end to miserable commutes. Families could spend more time together. People could spend more time on hobbies, outside in the fresh air. People’s lives would be fundamentally changed.
The Government want to hear from you about remote working. The information they receive will be used to shape public policy. DO NOT let us slip back into a way of working that exerted enormous and unnecessary pressure on everyone.
Visit the Public Consultation for Guidance on Remote Working or email [email protected] to let them know how important this is to you.
Read more: Lia Hynes talking in January of this year about how flexible working changed her life
Read more: Nathalie Marquez Courtney on why our current work culture is making parenting harder than it should be
Read more: Why office spaces are NOT necessarily the most productive spaces in which to work