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Focusing on Flexibility

WorldatWork has designated October as “Workplace Equity Month.” To shine the spotlight on issues of pay equity, diversity and inclusion, and social justice, Workspan Daily will be publishing various articles throughout the month on related topics. Visit our Workplace Equity page for more content on this critical area of total rewards.

We know that remote work has been on the rise for years.

Consider a 2017 FlexJobs and Global Workforce Analytics report that found 3.9 million U.S. employees working from home at least half of the time; representing a 115% increase over a 12-year span.

We know that most employees crave work-from-home opportunities.

workplace-equity

A June 2020 PwC survey, for example, saw 83% of workers saying they want to work from home at least one day a week.

COVID-19 has obviously amplified the need to expand flexible work policies to offer employees more freedom in how they get work done. And most organizations are reacting accordingly, and are revisiting flex policies in an effort to ensure they are equitable and ensure employee productivity, regardless of where they're working. 

A new Mercer survey, for example, finds two out of three organizations creating or updating flexible work policies in response to pandemic-related working conditions.

“With more than 80% of organizations looking to implement broader flexible policies post-pandemic, companies are taking a fresh look at their existing policies to ensure that they are both relevant and compliant,” says Christina Boiler, partner at Mercer.

Boiler urges organizations undertaking such an effort to first weigh the objectives for expansion, and to adapt programs appropriately.

“Mercer recommends assessing jobs for their ability to flex successfully, understanding the organization’s desire for flexibility and developing a sustainable execution plan,” says Boiler. “Objectively reviewing job categories for flexible potential can help to identify how work can change and support a company’s longer-term talent strategy.”

Factors Surrounding Flex Work
Whether the company is eyeing a temporary solution or more permanent option for its flexible work policy, Mercer points to a host of factors to consider, such as regulatory compliance, health and safety risks, security and privacy, and financial support.

With regard to regulatory compliance, for example, employers contemplating a work-from-anywhere policy must plan for tax and regulatory compliance, such as the implications of an employee moving to a state where the company does not have an operation, according to Mercer.

In terms of health and safety risks, Mercer points out the danger of failing to comply with health and safety requirements, which could put an employer at risk of increased liability should an injured employee make a claim.

Mercer’s data also points out that just four in 10 employers provide some kind of financial support to employees working remotely, with most paying via a reimbursement process. Mercer suggests determining what, if any, financial assistance will be made available to employees to support a home office, and structuring this assistance to ensure a return on mitigating the risks to employees’ health, safety, security and productivity.

Culture and employee engagement play a critical role in determining the success of a flexible work program, says Boiler, adding that companies need to identify the value their employees place on onsite work and the magnitude of change involved to achieve the future vision of flexibility.

Companies should review their people programs and infrastructure to ensure they meet the needs of remote workers and their managers,” she says. “For example, onboarding may need to transition from a mainly in-person activity to a virtual activity.”

Other decisions can affect employees, adds Boiler, such as changes to compensation depending on an employee’s primary work location, and the potential for unconscious bias in promotion decisions involving onsite and remote workers.

“Employers need to move away from the idea that there is only one workplace and focus on creating an employee experience that enables employees to be successful regardless of work location.”

About the Author

Mark McGrawMark McGraw is managing editor of Workspan.


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