Today, with information at our fingertips, we find ourselves multitasking on a daily basis. In many industries this hyper-connectivity has redefined the work culture for professionals. Inevitably a new range of Flexible Working Arrangements (FWAs) have emerged with the hope of attracting and retaining talent. Some of the more popular concepts are job sharing or part-time work, flexitime, compressed workweeks, telecommuting and “results only” workplaces.
As appealing as it may sound, flexible work comes with its share of pros and cons. Consequently, an increasing number of companies, like Google, are providing a range of extra facilities to employees. Their goal is to encourage employees to work from their offices at regular hours, and, thereby, foster collaboration and innovation within the company.
Let’s take a look at some of the major challenges with flexible working:
1. Decrease in communication
Flexible working limits collaboration, which then results in the work-flow, productivity and quality of work being compromised. Otherwise simple tasks, like scheduling internal or external client meetings become tedious. Managers struggle with reduced visibility across the company. Furthermore, employees are deprived of impromptu brainstorming sessions which sometimes lead to the best breakthroughs for business development.
2. Managing work and incentives fairly
A big concern with FWAs is the fair distribution of work amongst full-time and flex-time employees. One person’s right to flexible working could become another’s burden. Discerning between competing requests for flexible hours could lead to complicated employee relations. On the other hand, providing growth and promotion opportunities for the non-full-time workers can be just as tricky.
3. Chance of burnout
When work can go wherever you go, you could be expected to deliver from wherever you are. Ambitious, but unplanned, working increases stress levels and takes a toll on personal health. People who aim to accomplish multiple tasks through flexitime, run the risk of breaching health and safety regulations if they attempt to trade-off their breaks or downtime.
4. Data security
Employers risk exposing confidential documents when they allow telecommuting or the use of personal devices. Environments, in which sensitive data is being worked on, cannot be controlled. Further investment in the software required to secure these systems is essential and very often an expensive affair for the company.
5. Building the company’s culture
Companies find it difficult to cultivate brand loyalty from within, if their employees don’t have the chance to build a rapport with them or each other. Flexible working reduces the opportunities to achieve this.
Even when FWAs may prove to be beneficial, their adoption calls for extensive planning. Often they are promoted for ‘family-friendly’ aspects, without a sufficiently resourced management to support them. Flexible working is not conducive to all individuals and industries. If applied carelessly, these methods are more detrimental to a business than useful. As the traditional work place evolves, it will continue to retain its core values of collaboration, innovation, dialogue and camaraderie, making it truly irreplaceable over time.