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Is the future of work remote?


In February, Internet company Yahoo hit the headlines after HR director Jackie Reses sent a memo to all employees working remotely, telling them they must relocate to the organisation’s offices or quit the company. Yahoo’s bold move has sparked a debate around flexible working. Do you agree with its policy change around remote working? Or do you think the future of work is remote, and that HR directors have a responsibility to offer and manage flexible alternatives?

HR magazine asked two HR directors for their views. Last week, Ann Pickering, HR director, Telefonica gave her views. Today: Norma Pearce, EMEA HR director, Plantronics, gives her take on the matter.

In recent years, flexible working has become common practice, which is why Yahoo's decision to ban it came as a surprise. The internet giant seemed to feel that its workforce would be more productive and innovative working under the same roof.

While flexible working is not for Yahoo, I believe it can deliver real business benefits and have seen plenty of examples where it has increased job satisfaction, and reduced absenteeism and attrition; what company would turn its nose up at that?

However, organisations need to equip staff with the necessary tools and knowledge to optimise their flexible working experience, such as laptops and wireless headsets, as well as outlining what is expected of staff.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely all businesses are doing this, which means they are not getting the full value from their flexible-working programmes, which may explain why some employers and staff are still reluctant to embrace it.

As such, I feel there is much scope for improvement when it comes to flexible working. In my mind there's absolutely no doubt that businesses can benefit from it, but they need to introduce standardised processes and training to enhance the overall experience. For instance, by making employee goals and individual pressures transparent across the organisation, the workforce can better understand what is expected from them. This encourages the workforce to more effectively collaborate on projects - regardless of their location - and work towards the desired business goal.

The way we work and employee expectations have changed, and companies must evolve to reflect this. Inevitably some companies, such as Yahoo, will opt against flexible working. Yet the majority of businesses are implementing flexible working programmes, which is why it's essential businesses focus on equipping staff with the right tools to support the overall experience.