November 15, 2017 cogent_Admin

Are Flexible Working Arrangements Really Flexible?

Flexible working arrangements are seen as a solution to both employers and employees alike. There are many benefits for employees. Some of the many benefits are:-

Choosing your hours, working from the comfort of your home, reducing the need for travel, avoiding traffic, reducing travel costs, maybe spending more time with young children.

For employers some of the many benefits are:-

Costs saving by leasing a smaller premise, or perhaps a premises with limited on site parking, save on infrastructure to accommodate personnel in the workplace, attract more talent that is possibly not otherwise available due to travel restrictions, can have a larger team, no jurisdictional restriction on employees.

However, the technological age is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing in that it gives us the flexibility to take work with us either home, or any other venue we choose. However, the problem is with digital technology such as mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and cloud hosted software solutions, the employee can be constantly connected to the workplace.

So, where do we draw the line. When does this digital connection to work cease becoming a flexible working arrangement and turn into a non-stop digital working environment?

Employment Lawyers will tell you that an employee’s right to rest is enshrined in our national employment laws and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Art.24). Arguably, this means that there should be an identifiable and quantifiable work period, so that an employee can sign off and rest. Some other issues which arise in these circumstances relate to the following:

  1. Are employee’s being paid for the true hours of work?
  2. How do we police such an environment?
  3. Should our government follow in the steps of Portugal and legislate to restrict the use of these digital tools by workers outside of working hours?
  4. Given the often imbalance of power, do we allow agreements to be reached between employers and employees on this issue?  Or
  5. does the overriding demands of a company’s operations outweigh the impact of a constant connection (at a digital level) of the employee to the workplace?

In many cases the reality would be that this constant connection distorts the true organisation of working hours, assuming a more flexible commitment of the employee between work -regarding the place and time dedicated to it- and the personal life of the employee.  Thus, there is no proper work-life balance.

Many employees working in flexible working arrangements may not have turned their mind to the length of time they are connected to the workplace. Nor to whether they find themselves looking at the phone when a work email arrives, which often distracts from one’s personal life.

What do you think? We would be interested in your views on this topic.