Increasingly, employees are being given a greater flexibility to choose when, where, and how to work. Advances in technology, particularly smartphones and faster home broadband allow employees to opt for a more flexible approach to the working week. A recent YouGov survey found that just 6% of people in the UK now work the traditional office hours of 9am - 5pm.
There is no legal definition of an agile worker, but the term is frequently used to describe a wide range of flexible working practices such as working from home, hot-desking, working in a co-working space or a ‘third space’ such as a café or coffee shop or even working on the daily commute.
Many employees are attracted to agile working, with its potential for remote working and flexible hours. Employers can also reap the benefits of these flexible working practices; enjoying the effects of employees' improved efficiency and productivity, as well as infrastructure savings.
Whilst these flexible working practices can be effective, employers also need to be mindful of the potential pitfalls.
It can be challenging for employers to monitor the hours their employees work. This is due to employees struggling to separate work from home life, feeling pressure to finish projects or 'just check' their emails outside working time. The blurring of boundaries between home and work life has the potential to lead to stress and burn out.
Many employees now regularly work while commuting. A recent study by the University of West England found that the daily commute has effectively extended the working day. In most circumstances travel to a normal place of work does not count as working time, but such is the extent that commuters are working, there are calls for the commute to count as working time. This would pose problems for employers discerning when their employees are "clocked in".
Agile working also poses data security issues. Employees often use their own electronic devices, making it more difficult for employers to monitor employees and ensure they have necessary software to prevent data breaches. Public Wi-Fi is not secure and could make businesses vulnerable to breaches, and employees working on confidential documents in public risks inadvertent disclosure of confidential information.
Employers should have clear policies on working time, to support employees in defining where leisure begins and work ends. Employers should ensure that their policies on data protection and confidentiality are up-to-date and include clear guidance on 'bringing your own device' and use of company technology when working remotely. With effective procedures such as these in place, these flexible working practices can be beneficial for both employees and employers.