Flexible work arrangements present a multitude of benefits to employers and staff

Of the very few positives to stem from the outbreak of COVID-19, the decision by companies to allow staff to work remotely full-time is one of them.

For some time, employers have known that flexible working is equally as beneficial to businesses and the public sector as fixed job arrangements. For sure, there are roles that need to be performed in an office environment. Emergency services, for example, need call centre staff on premises 24/7. The same can be said for an array of industries, government bodies and operational functions, which require workers to be in situ during office hours.

Marketing, however, isn’t one of them.

There are many companies that offer flexible work arrangements. A former colleague of mine and marketing executive at a global management consultancy works at home on Mondays, travels 300 miles to London at the crack of dawn on Tuesdays, stays two nights in the Premier Inn next to their office, and travels home on Thursday evenings to work remotely on Fridays. They’ve been doing this for more than 10 years, and it still works.

Despite countless studies unanimously showing that across all generations, people prefer flexible working arrangements, there are a significant number of companies and agencies that are reluctant to follow suit — whether in Europe, Asia or elsewhere.

Typically, executives and senior management lack the trust required to allow this style of working. They believe flexible arrangements are unproductive, destroy collaboration and camaraderie, are unsociable, hinder accountability, and create an environment where they have little control over their employees.

Unfortunately, there are many instances where these views are proven right. A recent Instagram post made by an employee of a Hong Kong-based bank, claiming to be working remotely while taking a selfie at Victoria Peak, underscores the need to have staff in the office at all time, naysayers will argue.

But who can prove that the person in question wasn’t working at a nearby park, and that during a quick five-minute break they decided to take a picture of themselves against the backdrop of stunning skyscrapers and luscious greenery?

There are numerous technologies that allow teams to collaborate remotely, and to develop a virtual team environment. Slack, Skype, Webex and countless others can connect colleagues from all corners of the world with no interference nor time delay.

The argument that working remotely is unproductive for companies is simply unfounded, we argue, as no such studies within a marketing context have been conducted. Or if they have, they aren’t in the public domain.

The minutes and hours taken by staff to travel to and from an office can be allocated to company work done at home — rather than travel for one hour, work for eight with lunch in between, and spend another hour venturing home, we can work for eight hours, be fully refreshed and not jaded by our daily commute. Work-life balance.

Better still, we can work for 10 hours undisturbed.

For creative people, working remotely also provides inspiration. At the end of the day, ideas are what we sell, create and deliver. It’s how the creative industry makes its money.

And lastly, cost-savings. What is typically forgotten by corporate bean-counters is that remote working is cheaper for both companies and their employees. The former don’t pay for a fixed desk, phone, internet access and much more, while staff don’t fork out on travel and can buy less-expensive food and refreshments near their homes in the suburbs. Win-win.

Sometime in the future, COVID-19 will retract, and the world will be back to business-as-usual. When this happens, let’s hope marketing executives will realise that allowing staff to work from wherever they wish is a positive experience, and as such, they will permit much more of it going forward.

Photo by Andrew Neel from Pexels