In a move to offer staff more ways of flexible working, many employers have chosen to allow their workforce to work remotely from a location of their choice. However, employment solicitors warn that this could have some unintended, negative consequences.
Over the past year, many firms have looked for ways to continue offering workplace flexibility which has arisen from the pandemic and the consequent shift to homeworking.
As such, companies such as Ocado and Spotify have announced new policies, permitting staff to work remotely from any location.
Whilst this is meant to allow staff the choice to choose their own location to work in, Liam Entwistle, employment law specialist and chairman at law firm Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP, believes that a careful approach should be taken here.
Mr. Entwistle states that some employees may extend a planned trip and stay in the location they holiday in for an extra week without sacrificing their annual leave and work remotely during this time.
He states that, while this situation looks good on the surface, this could have some “unintended consequences” in the form of creating an ‘always-on’ culture.
Mr. Entwistle said:
The thin line between home life and work life has become even more blurred over the last 18 months thanks to home working which has become the norm for so many, and I fear the mass introduction of workation policies will simply make this worse.
There is a reason employees need holidays. It is an opportunity to completely switch off from work, to recharge and relax, which ultimately improves performance for the rest of the year spent at work.
This has had serious implications on staff’s health including higher levels of anxiety, employees being unable to sleep and lower levels of employee engagement overall.
As such, Mr. Entwistle discourages employers from introducing the policy across the board and packaging it up as a company benefit which, he claims, may “cause confusion around what is expected of employees”.
Instead, he argues that it may be more beneficial for employers to turn their attention to introducing stricter policies around annual leave to ensure their workforce can fully switch off during their holidays.
This could include encouraging employees to plan ahead, to ensure their work can be handed over, guaranteeing there will be a support network in place during their annual leave, and implementing a stringent policy on out of office messages to make it clear the person is on holiday and will not be contactable until they return.
Overall, Mr. Entwistle states:
Flexibility for employees is great, and the ability to work remotely is a huge benefit for lots of people, but it’s essential that we do not allow the distinction between work and home life to be blurred any further than it already is for many employees.