5 tips for employers to gearing up for 6th April surge in remote workers

Author: Neil Kay-Jones, Online Support & User Experience Manager

In early May 2008 Gordon Brown announced plans to grant parents with children up to the age of 16 the right to more flexible working solutions. That could be an increase of 4.5 million applications. So what now for employers?

With business leaders originally claiming this could prove a “nightmare” for small firms, here’s five tips on how to gear up for possible applications and make flexible working work for your company.

Understanding the process of application

The whole process can take up to 14 weeks to come in to effect from the initial request for a change to a flexible working pattern.

1. 28 days to arrange a discussion about a request for flexible working from a member of your staff
2. 14 days after the discussion is the deadline to inform them about the result of your discussion.
3. 14 days are allocated to your employee to appeal against the decision
4. 14 days for you to hear that appeal
5. 14 days after the hearing to inform your employee of the appeal decision.

After this, workers can seek conciliation through ACAS or other similar bodies, if required.

Be proactive, and set in place a defined workflow that guarantees that all employees who request flexible working are dealt with in a consistent way. Without these procedures in place you could find your human resources (HR) department hard pushed to deal with what could be a significant increase in requests starting today!

Take time to understand your staff and the roles they play

Set aside time to have a chat with your staff on an individual basis for the following reasons:

1. Identify possible employees who wish to apply for flexible working so you are more prepared
2. Look at the roles they play within the company and what sort of flexible work pattern may suit both the employee and your company. You can find the types of flexible working patterns on the Business Link website.

Trust your staff

Whilst 42 per cent of staff were confident that they could work better remotely, a recent survey of 3,743 employees by BT Business and Nortel shows that less than one in 10 UK small businesses trusts employees to work out of the office.

Proper communication with flexible workers and effective monitoring through technology can overcome this barrier. Choose  communication and remote collaborative technology incorporating presence and instant messaging to help to allay such worries and increase the level of trust.

Understand the effects on your business

The Business Link website lists a number improvements on how flexible working can benefit you and your business, here’s our pick of the bunch.

1. Greater cost-effectiveness and efficiency, such as savings on overheads when employees work remotely.
2. More job satisfaction and better staff morale.
3. Reduced levels of sickness absence.
4. Greater continuity as staff, who might otherwise have left, are offered hours they can manage.
5. Increased customer satisfaction and loyalty as a result of the above.
6. Improved competitiveness, such as being able to react to changing market conditions more effectively.

Security

With an increase in flexible working and teleworking, become more aware of the security of business-critical data that is taken outside the office, and managing the network technology used by flexible workers for collaboration and secure access back-office data. Think about how your employees will have access to your data and documents, will it be via a VPN (Virtual Private Network), working on remote collaboration software that allows desktop control and file sharing or simply data that is transferred via laptops or USB devices.

Such data and services should be encrypted to the highest level. Choose a remote collaboration software that uses 128-bit SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), which gives you the highest level of protection possible through online collaboration software. The same encryption is implemented by Banks and other organisations that use credit cards or make other financial or confidential transactions over the Internet.

Many companies small, medium and large can benefit from smarter working practices such as flexible working so make sure you do your research and start to look at possible ways to incorporate this into your business planning.


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