COVID-19 has sent shockwaves through our national economy, limiting our daily activities to control the spread of the virus. The NCR and other high-risk regions imposed quarantine restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In a similar vein, some Filipinos received emergency subsidies and wage supplements to get through the crisis.
Part of these quarantine measures involve social distancing, temporary school and business closures, and travel bans. Some private sector companies hit hard have tried to stay afloat by cutting back on service delivery and temporarily laying off employees. As a result, Millennial workers were hit hard.
The current situation makes you ask: how can companies ensure business continuity without reducing their workforce? That’s where a flexible working arrangement (FWA) comes into play.
A good workplace will have policies that give employees the freedom to do their job and achieve a healthy, work-life integration.
Let’s explore these FWAs in greater detail.
What is a Flexible Working Arrangement?
So we’re on the same page, let’s start with the definition of a flexible working arrangement.
Flexible work programs have been around before the pandemic. These programs were called “flexi-time” and gave people a greater window about when they could clock in and out of work. Despite the flexible schedule, flexitime employees still had to complete their working hours.
FWAs have become more feasible because it’s a better alternative over complete business closures or furloughs.
Keep in mind that these remedial measures are temporary and shouldn’t compromise on-time task delivery. Companies are also free to change these guidelines at any time, depending on their needs. Moreover, these organizations need to notify the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) if they adopt a flexible working model.
Weighing the Opportunities & Challenges
FWAs seem like a practical solution, but where do we stand?
Since the pandemic, office workers from specific industries have been working remotely more than ever. Even though the option to work from home (WFH) only applies to some sectors, experts share that the hybrid workplace is here to stay.
A hybrid model offers greater flexibility and freedom because it supports both in-office and remote employees. So it’s no surprise that the Philippines records one of the highest levels of enthusiasm for adopting FWAs: a study conducted by SEEK Asia, Boston Consulting Group, and The Network shows that 49% of respondents prefer a fully remote work setup moving forward. The rest prefer a hybrid workplace.
The trend isn’t only applicable to the Philippines. Results from the 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey from Ernst and Young revealed that Southeast Asian workers will go as far as hand in their resignation if their company fails to offer a hybrid setup.
Offering FWAs is easier said than done, though. For example, it’s harder for SMEs that lack the budget or tech to make it work.
That said, let’s examine some of the pros and cons of FWAs.
Advantages of FWAs
Some leaders cite the following benefits when adopting an FWA:
- Better retention & engagement - Empowering people to work on their own terms can boost morale and productivity. It could also make recruitment easier since more people nowadays prefer hybrid offices.
- Long-term sustainability - Upgrading tech for FWAs can give organizations an edge and stay competitive. Other flexible working arrangements could also reduce energy costs and paperwork.
- Reduce global footprint - As companies embrace remote work setups, it could minimize the environmental impact caused by carbon emissions and workplace “footprints.”
Disadvantages of FWAs
Shifting to a new work model is never easy, and it entails getting past compliance challenges in the new normal. So before making the change, keep these caveats in mind:
- Resistance to change - Some organizations adopting FWAs may fail to reinvent the wheel and fall short of keeping the new office setup conducive for work.
- Supervision control issues - FWAs carry the risk of isolation, and it could be hard to communicate with remote workers that follow different schedules.
- Building an inclusive company culture - Managers have the responsibility to share company goals and values while making sure everyone on the team feels motivated.
What Guidelines Has DOLE Implemented About FWAs?
DOLE encourages the adoption of FWAs to help curb the spread of the virus and reduce the number of people in the office. That’s why they want more companies to develop a WFH setup for employees who can perform remote work, or others with co-morbidities or pre-existing medical conditions (diabetes, cancer, or immunocompromised health status).
Here’s a list of some alternative work schemes that companies have adopted:
- Transferring employees to another office location or branch
- Assigning employees to different functions or positions
- Reducing the required number of working hours or work days per week
- Rolling our job rotation policies
- Conducting partial business closures
Curious about what DOLE flexible working arrangement works best? We elaborate on these FWAs below.
Following a compressed work schedule means that employees can work for 35-40 hours in a lower number of workdays. For example, an employee that needs to render at least 40 hours per week can choose to work 10-hours days, four times a week.
A workday for a compressed work schedule should not exceed 12 hours, however.
Employees that operate on a flexi-time schedule (sometimes called gliding) are free to determine when they clock in and out of the office.
Take note that this FWA still requires workers to complete their working hours. The only difference is that it gives them some leeway to adjust their schedule because of commuting or family needs.
Adopting a flexi-holiday schedule means that workers can avail themselves of a holiday on a different day as long as they’re entitled to the same benefits.
Companies that choose to reduce the number of workdays mean that employees work for a lower number of workdays per week. DOLE puts a limit on workday reductions, however, saying it should only last for up to six months.
Rotation of Workers
A job rotation program involves temporarily assigning an employee to a different role or department. The new position entails different responsibilities and the employee would treat the new tasks or workload as they would their usual one. Take note that worker rotation is usually a voluntary assignment.
Companies that enforce forced leave programs mean that an employee is required to take time off for several days or weeks. They’re free to use up their leave credits, if they have any.
As the name implies, broken time schedules describe a setup where the work schedule isn’t consistent or continuous, but the number of required weekly production hours stays the same.
Employee Transfer & Reassignment
Some situations call for the reassignment of an employee to a different role or position in the same company. They could also be transferred to another office or branch by the same employer.
Making Flexible Working Arrangements Work
Now that we have a clearer understanding of the types of FWAs, let’s consider some best practices you can follow to make it work in the long term.
Express Departmental Commitments
Instill the idea that flexibility is the key to employee retention. Adapting to the sensitives of the times calls for organizational change, and it’s the best way to prevent talent loss.
More importantly, your flexible work setup should support employee growth under a realistic workload.
Define Workplace Needs
The needs of your workforce can vary because of different circumstances. Not all FWAs work, so make sure you conduct a company-wide assessment and determine what type of setup works best.
Adopting a new workplace model means that you still expect your workforce to stay productive and motivated. But keep in mind that some of the priorities of the people on your team have changed. Even though this doesn’t have a direct impact on the work they do, you’ll also need to trust your team to take responsibility for fulfilling their work responsibilities.
For optimum performance, keep the floor open and encourage collaboration and creativity.
Avoid Work Biases
The trick to creating a sustainable FWA is by fostering an inclusive company culture where everyone can take advantage. Make sure you treat on-site and remote workers equally: both types of work are valid, and one doesn’t perform better than the other.
Ensure Proper Time Management
All flexible work times should fit into your larger business schedule. But if you work in a factory with a production line or an industry that requires face-to-face contact, it’ll be more challenging to implement an FWA.
If you’re bound to your physical location, you can enforce policies like allowing leaves with sufficient notice. Or you could consider hiring multi-skilled workers who can replace people in different positions.
Implement the Right Flexible Working Arrangement
A flexible work setup is the best step forward as the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to soar nationwide. After all, embracing flexibility means everyone’s more happy and productive at work. So make the most of your new agile workforce and provide the support your workers need the most.
When you adopt your new flexible model, you may want to consider upgrading your HR software so you can get things done easier and reduce tedious admin work. Use Sprout and get access to cutting-edge HR solutions. Book your demo today.