Adopting WFH Is Not Enough For True Flexibility

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic most office-based employees have worked from home (WFH). Many commentators have commented on how successful this “experiment” has been because companies could continue to operate with all their people at home and once they all had Zoom and Teams setup then they could even continue with remote meetings and management.

Once you dig beneath the surface it is clear that the transition to WFH was not completely smooth for every organization. The importance of security was often relegated in the rush to get everyone connected, not every company appreciated the mental health concerns around isolation, and some managers struggled to manage without seeing their team.

It’s been quite a learning process for many organizations. Even now that we are seeing a return to offices in many companies, there is a widespread view that companies should adopt more flexibility. This experience proved that home-working is possible so why not allow a mixture of 100% WFH, 100% office, and a hybrid for some employees?

But the thing is, that you don’t get true flexibility from WFH alone. Yes, this allows employees to avoid the commute, but are you really going to ask them to sit at a desk at home and just work a straight 8-hour shift as if they had commuted into an office?

This doesn’t offer much more flexibility to the workers and it doesn’t create any new opportunities for the employer – apart from dropping the commute there is no genuine flexibility.

Imagine if the employer could post a map of all the hours where they need people at the start of each week or month. Everyone on the team can match up what they want to do with the hours being offered by a smart Workforce Management system (WFM).

For example, in a contact center there is usually a quiet period in the afternoon. You get the morning rush, then several quiet hours before the volume of calls picks up again. Traditionally this has to be managed by using an early or late shift, but that also means that a lot of people are under-utilized in the afternoon.

What if the contact center manager can reduce how many people are required during the quiet periods and ramp up the offered hours later in the day and early evening? Then the agents can use the WFM system to match up when they want to work, sitting into the available hours.

This means that agents could do 4 to 5 hours first thing in the morning then take time off in the afternoon – perhaps to pick the kids up from school and make sure they are fed – then add a few more hours afterwards. Split shifts like this are almost impossible to manage when people need to commute, but they really suit a WFH environment.

It’s not just the lack of a commute that can make WFH a far more flexible option both for employers and workers. Building greater flexibility into working hours can offer the employer more of a focus on utilizing people when they are needed and offering workers the choice to take hours or entire days off as they prefer. WFH alone is not the answer.

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