Category Archives: Flexible Work Arrangements

The Future of Work: Exploring the Post-Pandemic Workplace from an Employment Law and Human Resources Perspective

Source: Isaac Mamaysky, UC Davis Business Law Journal, Forthcoming, 2021

From the abstract:
In March of 2017, when we were blissfully ignorant of what was to come in that same month a few years later, an associate professor of political science named Robert Kelly was being interviewed on BBC from his home office in South Korea. About a minute into the interview, his four year old daughter pranced into the room, in the most literal sense of the word, followed by her little brother in a baby walker and, shortly thereafter, Kelly’s horrified spouse, Kim Jung-A, who scrambled to collect the kids and close the office door.

That viral BBC interview, which now has tens of millions of views on YouTube, took place long before our collective experiment in working from home. While Kelly’s experience was truly novel in 2017, it feels like just another day at the office in 2020. If we have not personally had a kid “bust down the door,” as my toddlers like to say, during a Zoom call, then we have seen someone else’s kid do the same. While Kelly’s interview may have still gone viral if it had happened today—this was live on BBC, after all—the whole thing feels far more familiar than it once did.

COVID-19 has upended the workplace as we know it. Employment experts widely speculate that certain industries have fast-forwarded in the direction of working remotely by years. If the future of work for many employees is primarily virtual, what challenges does this entail for employers? What new rights might employees have coming out of the pandemic? In industries that continue operating in person, how should employers accommodate vulnerable employees who request to work remotely? What about non-vulnerable employees who are simply afraid to come in?

While analyzing these and related questions, this article explores the arguments for and against remote work. It goes on to show that the “hybrid workplace,” in which more people work from home more of the time, is our likely future. The article considers the new challenges this raises for employers and the new rights that it bestows on employees. The article concludes by arguing that giving employees choice about their work location is a mechanism for employers to avoid potential liability while boosting workplace morale and increasing productivity; creating a win-win for employees and employers alike.

They’d rather quit than end the remote work dream

Source: Sophia Epstein, Wired, August 17, 2021

Not a day goes by without another company announcing a delay in its return to the office. Chevron, Facebook, McDonald’s, even JP Morgan, have all pushed back their plans to later this year or even 2022. But pressing pause may only postpone the fallout from employees who have grown used to the perks of remote work. …

…Remote work during the pandemic provided some people with their first taste of better work-life balance, and unprecedented time to spend with their families or hobbies. Now they aren’t willing to let it go. According to data shared by global job site Indeed, searches for remote work have increased by more than 500 per cent since February 2020. And job postings mentioning remote work have increased by 180 per cent, now totaling ten per cent of job posts on the site….

Impact of Flexible Work Arrangements on Key Challenges to Work Engagement Among Older Workers

Source: Joanne Allen, Fiona M Alpass, Ágnes Szabó, Christine V Stephens, Work, Aging and Retirement, June 21, 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
As workforces age, organizations are challenged to provide human resource management policies and practices that are responsive to the needs of older workers. Flexible work arrangements (FWAs)—practices that allow workers to influence when, where, and how work is completed—have been promoted as enabling older workers to maintain work engagement by decreasing demands of the work role, providing the autonomy to balance work and nonwork commitments, and signalling the value of workers to employers. The current study aimed to examine whether FWAs were effective in alleviating key challenges to work among older workers by assessing the impact of FWAs on the associations of physical health, mental health, and negative age-related stereotypes about older workers, with work engagement. Data were obtained from 1,834 workers aged 55–82 (age M = 63.3, 54% female) from a general random sample of older adults. Greater mental health and lower negative stereotypes predicted higher work engagement. Greater physical and mental health conveyed an indirect impact on engagement via lower perception of negative stereotypes. Greater FWAs displayed a weak negative association with the perception of negative stereotypes about older workers and reduced the association of negative stereotypes with work engagement. Access to FWAs may have a minor role in alleviating key risks to work engagement associated with mental and social challenges for an aging workforce. Considerations for future investigations of FWAs and their impact on risks to engagement among older workers are discussed.

Going Public: Iceland’s Journey to a Shorter Working Week

Source: Guðmundur D. Haraldsson, Jack Kellam, Autonomy, June 2021

From the executive summary:
• In 2015 and 2017, in response to campaigning by trade unions and civil society organisations, two major trials of a shorter working week were initiated by Reykjavík City Council and the Icelandic national government.

• These eventually involved over 2,500 workers — more than 1% of Iceland’s entire working population — many of which moved from a 40-hour to a 35- or 36-hour working week.

• These trials not only aimed to improve work-life balance, but also to maintain or increase productivity. Reductions in working time were not accom-panied by reductions in pay.

• The trials evolved to include nine-to-five workers alongside those on non-standard shift patterns, and took place in a wide range of workplaces, from offices to playschools, social service providers and hospitals.

• The scale of the trials, combined with the diversity of workplaces involved and the wealth of available quantitative and qualitative data provides ground-breaking evidence for the efficacy of working time reduction.

• Results summarised in this report, based on both qualitative and quantitative data, demonstrate the transformative positive effects of a shorter working week for both employees and businesses alike.

• Productivity and service provision remained the same or improved across the majority of trial workplaces.

• Worker wellbeing increased across a range of indicators, from perceived stress and burnout, to health and work-life balance.

• Following the trials’ success, Icelandic trade unions and their confederations achieved permanent reductions in working hours for tens of thousands of their members across the country. In total, roughly 86% of Iceland’s entire working population has now either moved to working shorter hours or have gained the right to shorten their working hours.

•These reductions were won in contracts negotiated between 2019 and 2021, and have already come into effect for most workers. Some of these contracts give shorter hours to all union members, while other contracts stipulate that staff and their individual workplaces can negotiate shorter hours.

Redesigning the Post-Pandemic Workplace

Source: Gerald C. Kane, Rich Nanda, Anh Phillips, and Jonathan Copulsky, MIT Sloan Management Review, February 10, 2021
(subscription required)

Work as we know it is forever changed by COVID-19. Now is the time for managers to envision the office that employees will return to. …. The anticipated gradual return to colocated work in the coming months provides opportunities to experiment with hybrid ways of working. Returning to the office strategically, by focusing first on the activities best performed in person and, in the process, evaluating the effectiveness of both remote and colocated work, gives managers the ability to critically consider the ways in which a hybrid workplace might be more effective. ….

Why the Rise of Remote Work May Help Companies Become More Diverse — and More Inclusive

Source: Samantha McLaren, LinkedIn Talent Blog, February 3, 2021

For companies that were able to transition predominantly to remote work at the outset of the pandemic, the past year has brought countless new discoveries and realizations. This is reflected in the still-evolving attitudes toward remote work: In December 2020, PwC found that 83% of employers felt the shift was a success, compared to 73% in June. What’s more, 52% of executives now report that employees are more productive than they were before the pandemic, up from 44% in the earlier survey.

A surprise bump in productivity isn’t the only unexpected outcome to emerge from this challenging situation. Some companies are recognizing that remote work could make it easier to attract and hire underrepresented talent that might not be abundant where their office is located. At the same time, many employees from underrepresented groups are hailing work-from-home as a stepping stone to greater inclusivity, helping them to bring their whole selves to work without facing unnecessary obstacles.

As you start to think about what happens after the pandemic, here are a few reasons why adopting a hybrid or fully remote workforce model in the long run could support your diversity, inclusion, and belonging efforts.

Remote work is the next diversity frontier

Source: Paul Estes, Fast Company, March 11, 2020

Organizations that don’t actively support remote work are limiting their capacity to engage with top talent.

…Every company wants to promote diversity and inclusion. In every industry, firms are creating executive-level chief diversity officer roles, and those people are tasked with running diversity and inclusion programs. Yet, those same companies do not yet understand the importance of making remote work a key part of their diversity and inclusion strategy.

Location as an element of diversity is not yet part of the conversation. It really needs to be.

Too much diversity policy is based on a desire for compliance, not on a genuine wish to restructure the way teams function. Did anyone ever do anything truly worthwhile because they wanted to avoid a lawsuit? The system gets in the way of what it’s supposed to accomplish because the underlying imperative is to take risk out of the equation….

2020 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey – Highlights of key findings, United States

Source: Willis Towers Watson, February 5, 2021

Employees are seeking work flexibility, enhanced wellbeing, and greater retirement security. Discover more about their experiences during the pandemic. … In the future, almost four in 10 employees (38%) would prefer a mixed onsite/work-from-home experience. Over two-fifths (41%) desire to work onsite in the future all the time, and 21% are looking to work from home all the time. …

Remote management of library staff: Challenges and practical solutions

Source: Sarah Edwards, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Volume 47, Issue 5, September 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
COVID-19 has forced staff in academic libraries across the world to pivot from face-to-face workdays and services to fully remote (and, in some cases, back again) with very little time or notice. This new reality has presented new challenges in the remote management of staff that may also be working remotely, or in the building. This column explores some of those challenges and presents possible solutions for those at all levels of library management.

Why Working From Home Will Stick

Source: Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, Steven J. Davis, Becker Friedman Institute, April 2021

COVID-19 drove a mass social experiment in working from home (WFH). We survey more than 30,000 Americans over multiple waves to investigate whether WFH will stick, and why. Our data say that 20 percent of full workdays will be supplied from home after the pandemic ends, compared with just 5 percent before. We develop evidence on five reasons for this large shift: better-than-expected WFH experiences, new investments in physical and human capital that enable WFH, greatly diminished stigma associated with WFH, lingering concerns about crowds and contagion risks, and a pandemic-driven surge in technological innovations that support WFH. We also use our survey data to project three consequences: First, employees will enjoy large benefits from greater remote work, especially those with higher earnings. Second, the shift to WFH will directly reduce spending in major city centers by at least 5-10 percent relative to the pre-pandemic situation. Third, our data on employer plans and the relative productivity of WFH imply a 5 percent productivity boost in the post-pandemic economy due to re-optimized working arrangements. Only one-fifth of this productivity gain will show up in conventional productivity measures, because they do not capture the time savings from less commuting.