Written by: Brett Lyndon – The Pro Forum Community of Practice
The recent CoVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many changes in both our professional and working lives. From hand sanitizer galore and QR Codes, to artful facemasks, and social distancing, the changes are literally a once in a lifetime experience!
Perhaps, what is less obvious is what is feeding into The Great Resignation debate, is the change in how we work and the expectations of the environment in which we work.
The immediate impact of CoVID saw thousands of employees moving to a work from home (WFH) environment to reduce and control CoVID outbreaks. The public and private sector acted responsibly and quickly, as did employees. BTO (or back to office) was not on the agenda until more recently. Little discussion on longer term environments wasn’t on the radar. That is, until now!
The WFH vs BTO debate
Nearly two years on and we can begin to look at the subtle changes (or ‘creep’ in project management speak) in the working environment:
- Increased ability and desire to work remotely
- Unpaid overtime
- The increased ability (and propensity) for employers and managers to contact employees outside of contracted work hours.
Let’s examine these changes separately and consider the (potential) impact on your working life.
Increased ability and desire to work remotely.
Employers and employees have both realised that with ever changing , ever advancing modern technology it is possible for many workers to perform their duties remotely and still achieve acceptable work outputs.
Whilst some front-line customer service and manual labour roles are less suited to remote work options, many higher level, managerial and computer based roles are more easily translated to flexible working arrangements.
This realisation has created a potential area of contention between employers and employees.
Some employees have an increased desire for formal Work from Home (WFH) arrangements, while employers want staff to return to ‘the office’.
Employees cite reasons such as no commute time, cost savings, covid exposure and work-life balance as some of the main reasons to continue the WFH arrangement. Some will, and have, quit their jobs rather than returning to the old norms of office work.
Employers on the other hand list company culture, expensive (unused) office space, networking and connectivity, and the effort required to administer remote workers as reasons for the return to office push.
Another side of WFH arrangements and modern connectivity is the ability (expectation) to work extra (unpaid) hours. For an employee this might be a desire to demonstrate productivity and therefore justify the WFH arrangement. Or simply put, you might get less work done in the office, but because you are ‘seen’ your output level is acceptable.
For the employer, it can be the trade off of providing the flexibility of WFH arrangements.
This has potentially resulted in an increase in unpaid labour by Australian workers from an estimated 5.8 hours per week pre-covid, to more than 7.3 hours per week.
In financial terms – this equates to approximately $12,600 annually for the individual and $115 billion across the country in unpaid overtime. This trend could have serious implications for employers who may well be breaching Fair Work Commission rules.
The increased ability (and propensity) for employers and managers to contact employees outside of contracted work hours.
Another impact of modern connectivity is the ability for employers and managers to contact employees at any time for any reason.
From a simple call or email outside of contracted work hours, or as demanding as making an out of hours request for work to be completed immediately outside of contracted working hours.
These actions are blurring the lines between work and home life and eroding the work-life balance of employees.
To rectify this situation, some countries like Portugal are introducing new laws preventing employers from contracting employees outside of work hours. Victoria police have reportedly included a form of this in their new enterprise bargaining agreement, that officers are not to be contacted outside of rostered hours except in an emergency.
WFH & BTO provide different benefits for each party. Some industries are avid endorsers of flexible options for both parties, others are taking a harder line and forcing the BTO requirement.
So we ask you – which works best and who holds the cards in this debate?
NOTE: The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter, and specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. The content must not be relied upon as legal, technical, financial or other professional advice.
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