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Flexible working is here to stay. Office-based employees are now expecting employers to provide a range of flexible working options, and this means ensuring your office is flexible working ready. HR and facilities management professionals must therefore collaborate to ensure the office experience of a flexible worker is streamlined and stress-free. John Nicklin, MD of desk booking software provider, Juggl Desks, provides his insights on why HR professionals must address office logistics and explains what this means in practice.

The move towards flexible working as a right?

As we know, the pandemic has led to a huge demand in remote and hybrid working, increasing from 5.7 per cent of workers in February 2020 to a UK average of 31.5 per cent during the first national lockdown. This remained high into 2021, with an estimated 30 per cent of workers nationwide working from home at some point in November 2021. 71 per cent of organisations now advertise at least some vacancies as open to flexible working.

At present, workers have a right to request flexible working arrangements after they have been with their employer for 26 weeks. However, the Government has proposed reforming the rules to allow employees to request flexible work from the first day of their employment. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) is also pushing the Government for this reform, through its #Flexfrom1st campaign,and as part of this surveyed over 1,000 senior HR/decision-makers, with 57 per cent stating that they were in favour of a day-one right to request flexible working. These flexible options could include hybrid working (both home and office working), flexible start and finish times and compressed hours, for example.

Why offer flexible working?

Flexible working arrangements to suit the employee are no longer seen as a ‘nice to have’, but a right. Workers are increasingly expecting employers to provide flexible working and it may soon become a legislative right for all.

However, in the absence of legislation, why should employers offer flexible working? Various research has found that flexible working provides higher level of job satisfaction and commitment. It’s also more likely to reduce absence rates, attract fresh talent and keep existing employees engaged and loyal.

Getting your office flexible working ready

So, is your workplace set-up for flexible working? With so much to consider, the nuts of bolts of setting-up an office for flexible working may be overlooked, and this could lead to damaging consequences. For instance, what happens if an anxious employee turns up to the office on their first day of flexible working to find no desks available? Or perhaps an employee with a physical disability turns up to the office for a team meeting to find all disabled car parking spaces occupied.

The logistics of getting your office ready for a flexible workforce must become a HR priority. With so much at stake if things go wrong, it’s not good enough to throw everything ‘over the fence’ for the facilities manager to figure out. HR must collaborate with the facilities/office manager to make it clear what a good flexible working experience needs to ‘look like’.

Key considerations must include:  

  • Office layout – Start by figuring out how the office is going to be used by employees – Collaboration? Innovation? Quiet concentration? This must then be reflected in the office layout. Providing a hot desk area is a ‘must’ for a flexible workforce, so what will this area look like and how many desks are required? Will adjustable desks for wheelchair access and standing desks be available? How about a communal area for collaboration and socialising?
  • Desk booking – How will you manage the booking of hot desks and facilities? Employees will need to be able to quickly and easily book a numbered desk as and when needed, ideally using a floor map so that a preferred desk can be selected. This means being able to reserve a desk and facilities, such as an electricity point, WiFi and disabled access, while on the train, from the couch and while at the other side of the world. The software must be cloud-based, mobile friendly and incredibly intuitive to use, and to support truly flexible working, desks must be bookable for full days, half days and even hourly slots.
  • Car parking – If car parking spaces are at a premium, will you allow spaces to be reserved in advance to streamline the return to work experience and ensure fairness? Allowing car park spaces to be booked is an option with some of the smarter desk booking software systems on the market.
  • Harnessing technology for office collaboration and connection – Employees need to be able to use desk booking technology or similar, to easily view when colleagues will be in the office so that they can coordinate office time with friends, teammates and managers. Even better if the software can account for the different time zones so that employees can easily see when overseas colleagues are also in their offices.
  • Capacity management – How will you ensure that the office is not dangerously  overcrowded on busy days, while effectively managing health and safety? For example, there must always be enough fire marshalls and first aiders on site and so knowing who is going to be in the office and when is vital. Again, desk booking software solutions can help with this, providing office managers with a real-time view of office capacity.

It’s time to act

HR leaders in partnership with facilities managers must  figure out how to best prepare the office for a workforce that’s no longer in the office 9-5, five days a week. Reviewing everything from hot desk layout and collaborative areas through to desk booking and capacity management, is vital to ensure flexible working is not tripped-up by simple yet crucial workplace considerations.

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Paula is our Marketing Manager and brings with her a wealth of experience in all things digital and is passionate about digital workplace transformation and engagement.