Under new rules, workers can request flexible working from day-one of their employment rather than having to be in the role 26 weeks. There’s also a requirement on employers to consider other flexible working options for employees rather than denying requests out-right.
For some organisations, this will not greatly impact their current ways of working and supportive infrastructure. However for others, this new right will put increased pressure on companies’ IT systems and processes, especially if flexible and hybrid working is still the exception across their organisations, rather than the rule. For those companies still clinging onto the hope that employees will be returning to the office 9-5, they must finally get their IT systems in order before they crumble around them!
In 2022, around 4.3 million employees across the U.K had employment contracts that allowed for flexible working hours, which is 14.5 per cent of the U.K’s 29.7 million payrolled employees. With workers now having greater flexible working rights from the very start of their employment, flexible working contracts will only increase. And as well as employers receiving more requests for home-working and flexi-hours, there will also be increased requests for term-time working and job shares. The impact is that greater numbers of employees will be working from anywhere and at any time, and somewhat surprisingly, many organisations are still without the right IT systems and processes to support this level of flexibility.
A modern and agile intranet, for example, should be at the heart of every organisation, providing the crucial link between all employees regardless of where or when they’re working. The intranet is the glue, not only holding together an organisational culture, but enabling it to thrive by providing everyone with access to key information and documents; workflow functionality; latest news; support networks; and connections to peers, leaders and company purpose.
Without a central IT and communications platform accessible by all – including field and front-line workers – administrative duties are arduous, and inclusivity will be failing, with a greater likelihood of a two-tier workplace culture. In such a culture, there are inequalities between the in-office and remote working experience, with those working away from the office struggling with siloes of information, inefficient processes and teams who are emotionally disconnected from one another.
Women, ethnic minorities, rural workers and low-income workers will also lose out in a two-tier workforce, as organisations will naturally exclude them. In fact, research shows that a lack of access to suitable technology and infrastructure is one of the key hybrid working challenges faced by underrepresented minorities.
Together with an agile intranet, providing suitable home computers/mobile devices and ensuring everyone has a decent internet connection; organisations must provide the necessary collaborative tools and virtual co-working spaces to ensure everyone can participate fully when working remotely. Managers must also be educated in proximity bias and how to avoid it, so that those workers who are physically present aren’t automatically favoured.
The latest ruling should be seen as a watershed moment, highlighting that the direction of travel is indeed flexi-working. And with all U.K employees now having the right to request greater flexibility in how, when and where they work from day-one, this should force those organisations with IT systems that simply ‘got by’ during COVID to rethink how they can effectively support and unite a modern, and increasingly flexible workforce.