Flexible working: is 9.00 to 5.00 on the way out?

April 6, 2021 | David Daly 5 Mins read

The mainstream media is currently dominated by debate and articles surrounding the future of office life as well as the way office professionals are likely to work in the years to come. Inevitably, the debate has been fueled by the mass migration of office workers to the remote delivery environment of their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic. There has been an undeniable shift in worker dynamics with the vast majority of business department services being delivered remotely as people work from home.

With the worldwide vaccine program in various stages of development, thoughts can turn to an undefined endpoint for the coronavirus 19 pandemic. After the acceptance of the possible end in sight, there is then the consideration of what a post COVID-19 working culture will look like. It has generally been accepted the complete return to normal full-time office life is unlikely to be in widespread adoption, so HR managers and HR professionals are currently examining alternative office working hours and a company culture of flexible working hours.

This leads us to the question around flexible working – if a hybrid model of work from home mixed with office work is likely to be welcomed by leadership and professionals alike, then what are the implications of this when it comes to the hours normally associated with office life? In this article, we will take a look at some of the factors that come into consideration when global organizations consider what a future working week might look like.

Remote working hours

The global pandemic pushed everybody indoors as countries around the world imposed strict levels of lockdown on society. Initially, the general idea was that this would only be a temporary situation and that professionals delivering services at multinational companies should simply replicate their normal office hours routine in their home environment.

The reality became quite different -as the boundaries between home and office life became quite blurred, achieving work-life balance became tricky during the working day. A range of factors contributed to the uneasy reality that nine to five type hours are simply not achievable for many people when working from home.

Family commitments, house space issues, access to technology, school runs, medical appointments, internet connectivity plus stress and burnout all contributed to a very different reality for many office professionals.

Many found that the upside or pay off of a dramatically reduced office commute time and the ability to spend more time at home with family members was simply countered by a host of difficult challenges to overcome every day when attempting to execute core professional duties from a quickly put together working space in their homes.

Video conferencing or zoom fatigue quickly became commonplace and it was not long at all before it became evident that there was a strong need to address the issue of remote working hours and whether or not something like a 9 to 5 suits the lifestyles of remote workers who have a range of different personal commitments to factor into their working week. Sick leave and absenteeism rose, and employee well-being has become an issue as new working patterns bring with them some unintended consequences.

Hours to suit lifestyle

Increasingly, the debate is becoming about work arrangements that better suit lifestyles and family commitments as opposed to being restricted to the work hours of nine to five. People with families have school runs to consider and there is also a need for greater flexibility when it comes to day-to-day living.

Many professionals have stated that they wish to allocate specific hours in the middle of the day to tend to their personal and family duties and then log back on to their laptops at a quieter period later in the evening. It is simply a case that each individual has times during the day when they are capable of being more productive and attentive to their professional duties and many are now asking if they can be working during these specific times as a substitute to the normal working patterns of morning or afternoon hours when they are expected to be at their laptops.

While global employers around the world acknowledge and respect the many challenges that come with working from home and delivering services remotely, they also have an obligation to put in place a set of processes and procedures that reflect the desires of the majority of the workforce. It may not be possible due to the nature of the business needs to accommodate a large number a flexible working hours requests- that said, most employers recognize that a compromise or common ground needs to be achieved to avoid errors that can be associated with employee burnout and stress.

The landscape is therefore shifting, and more and more global employers are seeking to put in place structures to support more flexible working arrangements. There are contractual implications around this for HR managers and professionals to deal with as well as the not inconsiderable logistics that accompany a large number of staff executing their professional duties at various different hours of the day and week. It is a challenging time for HR professionals to apply structure and discipline to work routines while also listening attentively and acting on feedback from employees delivering services remotely.

Salesforce expects more than 65% of its workforce to come into the office only one to three days a week in the future, up from 40% before the pandemic.

As with any new initiatives, some companies will get it right and others will fall short of expectations. Others will choose to play a ‘wait and see’ approach and follow what they see as trending practices when it comes to flexible working hours designed to suit the lifestyle of global employees.

Technology assistance

One thing is for certain, regardless of the way in which global employees deliver the specific hours that their contract stipulates they should deliver in a working week, the reliance on robust and innovative technology is only going to increase.

An employee executing a task at 11:00 AM or 9:00 PM at night will still require access to crucial data and documents. They will want to work with innovative tools that allow them to easily share information and collaborate with others -they will expect video conferencing connectivity to be of the highest standard and they will also need to have any concerns around data security and information security addressed.

The best and most innovative technology stacks are therefore likely to be the ones most flexible when it comes to organization’s aligning their technology stacks with the changing needs of their workforce.

We can expect an increase in the use of cloud deployed digital platforms that enable anytime, anywhere access to global employees – on such a platform, employees can often access and deliver their work commitments on the device of their choosing, regardless of location and at a time that suits their requirements.

Those companies who choose to invest in their technology stacks and equip their workforce with digital innovative tools that enable fast and efficient collaboration and data sharing are likely to find themselves ahead of the curve and in a stronger position to support more flexible and different working hours that are likely to be in place when this pandemic comes to an end.

Be prepared

Payslip has helped many organizations to continue to pay their remote workers accurately and on time throughout the pandemic. We talk to our clients all the time and we recognize that the working culture at multinational organizations is shifting towards a new landscape. Regardless of the composition of the working week in terms of hours worked, this new landscape is likely to be dominated by digital technology designed to support effective service delivery and working processes.

The Payslip platform features innovative digital tools that enable global employees, working remotely while dispersed around the globe, to share data and files relating to the delivery and management of global payroll processes.

Our digital platform tools enable employees to switch tasks across countries and manage their deadlines effectively via digitized calendars and audit trails. Our platform is deployed in a secure cloud environment designed to protect sensitive payroll data. The platform also integrates with the wider IT ecosystem including any HCM or finance operation systems.

This is the kind of innovative digital technology that is likely to support changing work environments in the future.  This kind of technology offers key authorized users anytime, anywhere access to the data and communication tools they need to do their job effectively while working in a remote environment at working at the hours that suit them.

 

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Using Payslip, we can manage all our payrolls across nine in-country vendors on one platform. When the global Covid-19 pandemic arose, it was not an issue from a payroll perspective, and critically getting everyone paid. The Payslip platform enabled continuity for our international payroll service including the fast and seamless implementation of the Payslip Employment Self Service during this time.

Colin Smith

Payroll Manager, LogMeIn

Payslip as a technology platform has added a missing piece in our payroll set-up. As an international company with offices in 16 countries, it’s important to us that every employee at GetYourGuide has the same great experience when accessing their pay data.

At the same time, we work well with smaller local payroll providers, supporting us with direct local expertise in their countries. We were able to combine those two elements by placing the Payslip platform in the middle, to simplify reporting and communication with local providers, and to have one simple employee-facing solution across all locations.

Julian Fichter

Head of HR, GetYourGuide

With business and employee growth rates of above 50%, we rely on our vendors to deliver on time, every time. Payslip’s workflow automation, enables Phorest to manage our payroll provider process – data driven, real time and transparent. Payslip saves us time so we can focus on our business growth.

Ana Kelly

International Payroll Manager, Phorest