Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Flexible Working & Remote Workers - Managing Absence & Productivity is Key

There is no doubt that the largest growing area of workers in the UK is those who work remotely.

Working remotely is by no means new.  Mobile technicians and engineers, sales professionals and divisional managers, who spend their time mostly on the road, have often used their car or van as 'the office' and have typically filled in paperwork in a corner of their homes.

However, thanks to the recent right for workers to request flexible working from their employers, along with growth in technology that makes it feasible, more and more workers are working from home, in fact the latest data from CV-Library, the UK's largest job board, suggests that home-workers are more productive, happier and more capable of attaining a healthy work/life balance than those who work in an office.

The job site surveyed over 1,800 UK professionals to gauge the working lifestyle of home-based employees and the nation's opinions on this way of working. Key results showed that:

  • 18.2% of UK professionals work from home, with a further 15.4% splitting their time between home and the office
  • 84.3% of home-workers believe they are equally or more productive than office-workers
  • Over three quarters (77.4%) of the UK’s entire working population agree that working from home has a positive impact on productivity
  • 83.2% of home-workers find it easier to successfully manage a good work/life balance
  • 65.8% of home-workers believe they worker longer hours than office-based staff
  • Flexible working hours and missing gruelling commutes are the main contributions to increased productivity (27.9% and 26% respectively)

Results show that there are clear advantages to both businesses and employees when staff are able to work from home. The benefits of flexitime, fewer meetings and no gruelling commutes to the office make those that work from home more productive, happier and more able to achieve a healthy work/life balance; all of which is essential in creating valuable and successful employees.

One business who perhaps understands the challenges of working from home better than any other is software firm Codel.  Adrian Lewis, commercial director explains:

"The benefits of remote working, managed well, can be incredible, indeed for programmers and writers a quiet home environment without interruptions can be a massive boost to productivity - but it can pose challenges in tackling issues like staff absence in remote workers, i.e. when is someone working from home, and when are they on their day off, or off sick?  Businesses need to know clearly when someone should be working, and how to co-ordinate planned leave and arrange sickness cover."

"Home workers get annoyed when called about non-urgent matters or questioned about productivity on their days off, and co-workers who do not work flexibly get annoyed if their home-working colleagues 'appear' to take more holiday than them - so if your people are working from home, it is vital to have systems that manage this."

Cloud based systems like Codel's Activ Absence are a useful tool because they can be accessed anywhere via a web browser or a mobile phone.  They make it simple and straightforward for remote workers to request leave or report sickness absence in the same way that their office based colleagues do, and their office based colleagues can be given access to see who is off, when, even if they work remotely.  Adrian says:

"The cloud is revolutionising the way we manage people, and thats a good thing.   Software is pushing the boundaries of the way we work, giving people more freedom - and today's data from CV Library shows it is good for people too - many of our staff work from home on some occasions and it has not caused us a problem."

Codel employee Lisa Baker, says "for most home workers, it's about juggling family commitments and getting a good home life balance!  For me it's about getting peace and quiet when I'm working on the website or writing - I get twice as much done without the distractions of the office!"

Lee Biggins, CV-Library's founder and managing director, comments: “Despite the increasing number of hours that British staff are working, productivity rates remain low in the UK, indicating that our approach to business and the working day needs to shift. Whilst home-working isn't suitable for all businesses, it can provide clear benefits to companies and employees alike. As long as employers manage their employees effectively and monitor productivity levels, it should be easy to determine which environment works best for staff, and ultimately, the company’s output.”  

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Will SMEs follow Netflix and offer unlimited paternity leave?

Netflix has announced it will offer unlimited paid maternity and paternity leave in the first year after a child is born or adopted. 

In the wake of this announcement, Microsoft and Adobe followed suit announcing unlimited maternity/paternity leave this week, joining companies like Virgin Group and Zynga who have all announced similar policies.

Business Matters asked Adrian Lewis, commercial director for Activ Absence to share his views.  Article is here:

Friday, 7 August 2015

Bank Holiday Barbecue-itis

Anyone who manages people will tell you that there are three days where people are more likely than any other to take a sickie – Monday, Friday, and the day after a bank holiday!

Adrian Lewis, commercial director for Activ Absence has seen it all over the years and has a few tales to tell.

“One of our customers started our discussion by telling us he had got a massive absence problem after bank holidays, hence he wanted to get Activ Absence.  He didn’t really have a holiday recording system, even a paper one.  He 'planned' for bank holiday Tuesday by booking a load of agency staff in advance to cover absentees.  In the past, by Tuesday morning, the temps would all be out on assignments and when he’d rung for cover there was nobody available at short notice.  So, as he didn’t have the tools in place to tackle absentees, he pre-booked agency staff ‘just in case’!”

It is a common problem – and the client had a common sense solution!

So what is it about having that extra day off that makes people want to stretch a long weekend into an even longer one?  Adrian says it’s a complex situation:

“Of course, there is a tendency for your typical regular absentee who takes frequent sickies anyway to take advantage of the break in routine to take another one – but most HR managers know who they are anyway - they aren’t the only problem.”

“The British Bank Holiday culture is simple, let’s drink more, let’s have a barbecue, let’s go out for the day – we break routine and increase risk.  Drinking more can lead to hangovers – barbecue food is often undercooked in the middle and increases the risk of food poisoning, (which doubles in barbecue season!).  There’s more cars on the road so traffic is more stressful and the risk of accidents is increased and the extra day off breaks the routine leading us to feel more relaxed – take all of that together and you can create a perfect storm, so it is perhaps crazy to just expect everything to be ‘normal’ the day after!”

A recent survey found 94 per cent of barbecuers had at least one habit that risked the health of their guests – such as undercooking raw meat or cross contaminating food by leaving cooked and raw meat together, and one in five people have become ill as a result of food being under-cooked or because of the chef’s bad habits - a sobering thought as your people are tucking into their delicious blackened (but not necessarily cooked) burgers on a sunny bank holiday afternoon.

So, how can Managers reduce the tendency for absence to rise after a bank holiday?  Your staff are not children, and it is likely that your giving them barbecue advice will be seen as patronising, though you could maybe do a fun blog post on how to barbecue safely based on Food Standards Agency advice.

Adrian says: “The first thing is to start measuring and see how big a problem you have, where and why.  Our tool, Activ Absence, is great for doing that.  Your holiday recording system should be able to tell you who is typically off, when, so you can tackle frequent bank holiday absentees.  Once you can identify a specific problem, it’s not so hard to tackle.”

“It’s also important that you educate your staff, so they realise that taking that extra day off if they aren't really ill will have an impact on their colleagues and on the business.  Absentees are not generally bad people, they just haven’t understood that their absence has an impact.  Once people realise that, absence normally drops by 30%.”

“You have to be realistic.  You can’t stop people enjoying their holiday.  Barbecues, travelling etc. are all part of that and there will always be a higher rate of absence because of that!  So, bottom line, if you tackle the regular absentees, hopefully that will make up for the genuine absences that occur due to other factors.”

Monday, 3 August 2015

The Power of Three: Incommunicado

The Power of Three: Incommunicado: I haven't blogged for a few weeks as I've been on holiday. I deliberately turned off my work emails and calls during the holiday an...