Dave Rees, Senior Leader at SThree, looks at whether the ability to work from anywhere at any time is all it’s made out to be.
I, like many of you, am a fan of change and flexible working. However, I really do believe it has to be done properly and companies have a duty of care when it comes to how often we expect our people to be ‘on’.
It’s now incredibly easy to work away from the office as we can all connect to people and information anytime, anywhere and through any device.
That’s really driving the idea that work is something you carry about in your pocket, rather than being a place you go to.
Being able to shift your working hours, so you can leave work earlier if the kids need picking up from school, or if you’ve got other caring responsibilities or appointments to go to, is fantastic.
And having the ability to log into work from anywhere in the world means you can click a button and make sure important tasks are completed even when you’re not physically in the office.
But are companies putting wellbeing at the forefront of their decision-making when rolling out new tech and flexibility to their staff?
Challenging the ‘new’ ways of working
According to a report in January this year by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), mobile working is expected to reach 70% by 2020.
And in the UK, all employees have the legal right to request the likes of flexi-time, part-time hours and home working if they have worked for over 26 weeks with the same employer.
But while these types of arrangements can be beneficial for some people, the boundaries between work and home can really become blurred.
In many cases, working from home or away from the office can simply mean longer hours, being constantly ‘on’ and having no social touch points, which can be crucial for good wellbeing.
Striking the correct balance
In February, I was invited to visit one of the big tech firms and was shown some ‘futuristic’ zones which had slick virtual offices and new technologies which could easily connect you to a colleague who could be on holiday on a remote beach in Maui.
I interrupted the presentation to ask where wellbeing came into this vision and there was no real answer.
I found it scary that such basic work-life considerations weren’t being factored into the conversation around their future of work plans.
That got me thinking, do we, as business leaders, fully understand what wellbeing at work means?
You can give people amazing new tools and more flexibility with their hours and place of work, but is it really going to make life any better?
Maybe people don’t want to be dialled into a meeting when they are on a well-earned holiday with loved ones.
My life is all about carving out more time with my family, not less. And if I’m sending emails at the weekend, I certainly don’t want my team to feel obliged to respond that day when they’re out enjoying themselves or spending quality time with the people they love.
Be clear then aim high
Too many companies think they are putting the wellbeing of their people first when actually, their ways of working are detrimental to the health and happiness of their employees.
At SThree we’re committed to providing our people with the technology and flexibility to do their jobs where and when they need to.
The position of the future is one that puts health and happiness first. Businesses have a duty to be clear about what is expected and to help people truly achieve a healthy work-life balance.