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Flexible working arrangements: It’s a balancing act

Equipped with the company laptop, wifi dongle and remote network access – working from home (WFH) was once considered a special arrangement of convenience or necessity. Now, we are no longer at the mercy of the IT department’s bureaucracy with a handful of accessible technologies we treat as a given.

Comprised of home wifi, laptops, cloud-based file sharing programs and free video conferencing tools, the modern office weighs under 2 kilos and can be carried over the shoulder. And, it’s rent free! According to a survey of executives, entrepreneurs and business academics organised by London Business School and Deloitte, at least half the workforce are expected to work remotely by 2020.

With the potential to lower a business’ overheads and eliminate travel among many other benefits, WFH does indeed sound like a ‘no brainer’. A study reported in the Harvard Business Review discovered significant improvement in productivity and job satisfaction among employees working from home.

Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs told Business Insider Australia “fewer distractions and interruptions during the workday, more control over your work environment, zero time wasted commuting to and from work, fewer sick days taken, and more satisfaction with your job — that’s why people want the option to work from home.”

But while many of us are busy founding businesses on these new technologies and theories, and organisations like Apple and Thomson Reuters are already engaging flexible work practices, why are some employers still struggling to warm to the concept?

The answer may be as simple as this: employers are responsible for a number of individuals. With a plethora of conflicting studies into the effects of flexible working arrangements, it shouldn’t be of any surprise that many employers are perched firmly on the fence.

A report published by the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, found that alongside the many benefits of WFH, there are also a variety of potential drawbacks. These include: conflicts with family commitments, isolation and lack of motivation to name a few.

Some may flourish in a WFH arrangement, some may not and for others, it may be most effective in moderation. It truly depends on the individual’s own circumstances and personality traits. So, rather than an ‘all in, all out’ approach to remote working arrangements, it appears there is a balancing act which some employers are yet to play.

The way forward, is simply getting this balance right to exploit new technologies for the benefit of the employee and the business. And the balance may find itself by facilitating flexibility; affording individual employees the trust to decide on arrangements most effective for themselves.

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Daniel Jacobs

Daniel Jacobs

Daniel Jacobs was editor of Dynamic Business.

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