Coronavirus: Flexible working will be a new normal after virus
Facebook and New Zealand’s Prime Minister are the latest supporters of flexible working as companies mull back-to-office strategies.
On Thursday, Facebook said it plans to shift towards a more remote workforce as a long-term trend.
New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern this week suggested a four-day working week, partly to boost tourism in the country.
As offices gradually re-open after coronavirus lockdown, more employers are looking at news ways of working.
Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told staff it was “aggressively opening up remote hiring” in July. He expects half of its workforce to do their jobs outside Facebook’s offices over the next five to 10 years.
It follows moves by other tech firms in Silicon Valley including Twitter which said employees can work from home “forever” if they wish.
Flexible working policies suit staff who are anxious about returning to offices while giving breathing space to companies as they introduce new social distancing measures.
Ms Ardern has suggested a four-day working week to help boost the economy and address work-life balancing.
“I hear lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day work week. Ultimately that really sits between employers and employees. But as I’ve said there’s just so much we’ve learnt about Covid and that flexibility of people working from home, the productivity that can be driven out of that,” Ardern said in a Facebook live video.
Tech giants lead
Tech giant Microsoft trialled a four-day working week last year in Japan which was deemed successful in terms of employee feedback and productivity. It says it is now has a “hybrid workplace strategy as worksites slowly start to open”.
“Working from home remains optional through October for most employees,” said a Microsoft spokesperson.
Both working from home and shorter working weeks have been applauded by human resources experts as an alternative to a mass return to offices.
“It would also give better work life balance for the people who need it such as part-time students, new mothers, parents who want more time with kids/looking after the elderly,” said Alin Abraham, a Singapore-based consultant.
“If after Covid-19 employers learn how to employ flexible workers that would be a huge battle won for human resource management,” she added.
A shift towards more remote working also allows companies to rethink their expensive office space.
Mastercard said it is currently looking at consolidating some of its offices while Facebook has plans for working “hubs” across the US.
“Post Covid-19, you can imagine many companies shrinking down their real estate and employees can just work from home. It will be an interesting proposition to see how employers can cater to different crowds,” said Adrian Tan, of workplace IT firm PeopleStrong.