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Flexible and Remote Working Part 2: The Challenges Facing Employers

In part 1 of this series, examining the advantages and disadvantages of flexible work options, including flex schedules and remote working, we assessed the evidence-based benefits employers can potentially accrue. But flex work options are not a slam-dunk in all situations. Specific challenges and disadvantages can undermine potential rewards, and employers need to understand what they’re getting into if they opt to offer their employees these kinds of choices.

1: Internal communication can suffer.

A survey found that many workers were concerned about the loss of access to leadership. They felt that remote work options reduced their visibility to colleagues and company leaders, and led to them feeling left out.

With employees working in many different places at different times, it can be hard for colleagues to reach each other when they need to exchange information. The logistics of even simple conversations become much more complicated under flex work arrangements. This is a serious enough issue that some companies that previously offered remote work options, like tech giants IBM and Google, now discourage telecommuting.

2: Not all employees are well-suited to flex schedule options.

Not all employees will thrive in an environment where they have to set their own schedules and direct their own work. Under remote working scenarios, employees who need more supervision to work effectively may lack the leadership they need. But here’s the catch: if employers offer flex schedule benefits only to certain employees, resentments may thrive, and employee morale may suffer. Employers may also open themselves to accusations of discrimination or preferential treatment.

3: Employers may find themselves liable in ways they don’t expect, e.g., overtime.

The disintegration of firm boundaries between the workplace and home means that employees may end up working hours that make the employer liable for overtime payment. With less control over the employee’s schedule, employers can inadvertently stumble into obligations they didn’t expect – or find themselves in violation of wage and labor laws – due to the hours selected by the employee.

Successful flexible working options require strategy and care in formulating policies to govern how these flex schedules will work in practice. And some employers may simply realize – like IBM and Google – that these options aren’t right for them. If unsure, a limited-scope pilot program may help employers to test the concept to see if it works in practice.

CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about CoAdvantage’s ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.