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No more 9-5 – business leaders must embrace flexible working

Business leaders are being urged to take a flexible approach to homeworking to protect the mental health and wellbeing of employees.


Following calls from trade union Prospect, for the UK government to set out protections in its upcoming Employment Bill that mirror those already in place in parts of Europe, Sridhar Iyengar, managing director of Zoho Europe, said it is imperative that a more “human approach” is taken.


“Employers and organisations should have the tools and culture for collaborative working and so understand that different people may have personal priorities and will respond to work related matters when it suits their lives best,” he said.


“Work as we know has become fluidic, with workforces operating from anywhere and at different times, depending on when they are most productive. A progressive and dynamic organisation should analyse this and adapt, to accommodate the employees’ personal needs with a healthy work balance.


Data from the Office for National Statistics suggested 35.9% of the UK’s population that are classed as employed worked from home for at least some of the past year.


However, it also found that this group completed an average of six additional hours in unpaid overtime each week.


France has a law in place that demands companies set agreed hours for teleworkers. The right to disconnect law came into effect on January 1 2017 and obligates employers to refrain from encroaching on the personal and family lives of employees with calls or emails.


Ireland has also introduced something similar this year, although it isn’t written in law. This code of practice asks employers to utilise footnotes and pop-messages that remind staff that there are no out of hours requirements for responding to emails or answering calls.


Iyengar added: “Guidance from the government’s flexible working taskforce should be observed to help employers respect the boundaries of their staffers, to protect their mental health and wellbeing and ensure a healthy work life balance.


“However, to maintain at least the same level of productivity as seen in a traditional ‘9-5’ office environment, the right tools must be employed to connect colleagues, maintain a strong company culture through better and more supportive collaboration techniques and tools, and with more channels for support and guidance.”

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