This month is has been reported that July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth. Across the globe, the effects of the temperature could be felt. In Greenland, one of the most significant ice melts ever recorded poured 197 billion tons of water into the North Atlantic, raising global sea levels by 0.5 millimetres. Also, in Greenland and across the Artic, the heat sparked massive wildfires which produced CO2 emissions equal to those of all of Columbia in 2017. In Switzerland, rail tracks were painted white in the hope it would help to prevent them from buckling in the extreme heat. In the Netherlands, a local TV station broadcast nonstop images of wintry landscapes to help viewers forget the heat outside and in Paris, local officials set up neighbourhood “cooling rooms” where people could find air conditioning and cold water. Closer to home in the UK, London ground to a halt on the hottest day of the year on record as a huge number of train companies cancelled or delayed the majority of their services out of London. For many London commuters, the delays were up to 5 hours long in the afternoon, which combined with the extreme heat lead to a very uncomfortable journey for many. But, could this have been avoided?
The issue of climate change is huge but what could have been done on a smaller level to ease some of the pressure and discomfort felt by thousands of commuters? The first phrase that springs to mind is “flexible working”. Often hailed as the buzzword of the millennial generation and associated with trendy start-ups and non-traditional working practices, isn’t it time we all started using flexible working for its true purpose? In the lead-up to the heatwave, hundreds of Londoners were warned against travelling and yet, the trains were still heaving in the morning, despite the warnings. Is this because workers are required to work from their office? Or because of meetings that couldn’t be rescheduled? Or is it just that their employers aren’t yet offering flexible working?
The French Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe described how changes would have to be made to the French schooling system and working environments if these temperatures are going to be expected every year. Similar changes may need to happen in the UK where there is currently no law for the maximum temperature of a working environment. Many smaller or older offices and workplaces won’t have air conditioning and as a result, sales of fans were through the roof. However, perhaps the UK needs to consider implementing such laws if we’re going to continue to experience these types of temperatures year on year. The Trades Union Congress is also calling for the government to implement laws surrounding workplace temperatures and have proposed that employers must ensure that working environments do not exceed 30C degrees. An interim solution to all of this is to offer staff the flexibility to work from home on days when temperatures are so high. I think we can all agree that productivity is pretty low when we’re faced with such uncomfortable conditions, particularly those unfortunate enough to have strict dress codes in place.
If the heat wave of July 2019 isn’t enough to persuade you to offer flexible working, what about the huge number of statistics that highlight increased levels of productivity, motivation and general happiness and wellbeing from employees who are given the option to work flexibly? Or the major boost it can give to your employer brand when recruiting? Many potential employees have come to expect employers to offer some form of flexible working to enable them to have a better work-life balance.
Not only that, but we’re currently experiencing the 4th industrial revolution of our time during an era of digitalisation, artificial intelligence and automated processes. For employees, this may mean that working remotely is easier than ever due to the rise in technology with smartphones allowing us to connect from anywhere and apps such as Skype enabling us to undertake meetings from anywhere in the world. Likewise, the benefits for employers are extensive, allowing them to recruit a global workforce, reduce office rent, scale at a quicker rate and increase productivity. The recruitment industry for example, is often considered to be very traditional in it’s working practices with employees often required to work long hours during set times and often in corporate dress. With the rise in technology and the ability for consultants to ‘meet’ with candidates from anywhere, there seems less need for consultants to be tied to their desk at all hours of the day when their job can now be done far more remotely than ever before. This no doubt makes the industry seem much more attractive to potential new hires and gives employees the autonomy to work in a way that suits their lifestyle.
At PCR, we’re currently trialling a new flexible working policy enabling employees to leave an hour earlier at the end of the day, providing they remain available over the phone and email during this time. The reason for this is that none of our employees live locally and the majority of staff have quite a long commute. By leaving earlier, we all get a better work-life balance whilst still ensuring that our clients and contractors receive service as normal. It also works well for screening candidates who are often only available in the evening after work. In addition, we all work from home one day a week to allow us all a little break from the commute! This day at home also enables us to schedule personal appointments without impacting on the rest of our working week. We’ve definitely noticed a greater level of satisfaction when it comes to work-life balance and often find that our days working from home are the most productive due to the lack of distraction from others.
If Flexible Working means happier, more comfortable and more productive employees and a reduction in costs for employers, then what’s not to like? If this way of working appeals to you then get in touch as we’re always looking for talented individuals to help us to grow our team.