Over the last six to nine months, there have been a range of articles within academic journals, business publications and newspapers focused on predicting and unpacking the issues which will shape the extent and nature of remote working in the near to mid-term.
Key themes have included:
• The shifting nature of employee expectations and the implications for businesses – There have been a number of articles which have highlighted that flexibility in working patterns will be become the key factor when younger people are making a decision about future job opportunities . As a result, businesses which do not offer flexibility in working patterns face challenges in recruiting appropriate skills and talent
• The changing people practices of businesses – Across a number of different member states, there is evidence that businesses are changing people development and management practices to attract and keep staff. For example, within the UK, a number of businesses are involved in a four-day working week trial . Initial evidence from the trial has highlighted that whilst the first couple of weeks were somewhat challenging, as businesses struggled to adapt to a new way of working, many of the 70 businesses involved are now finding that the shorter working week is enhancing the wellbeing and productivity of their staff
• The rights of the employer and employee in monitoring remote working – As we shift from a period of being instructed to ‘work at home’ to the option of ‘working from home’, businesses are working through how to support and supervise staff who want to continue to work from home. In part, this has supported a growth in businesses offering remote monitoring software but it has also raised a set of ethical questions – e.g. there is evidence of employers using monitoring software to track work activity of staff working from home but without notifying staff that the software is being used . It has been suggested that there may be value in a discussion around the use of software between a business and its staff as this may identify alternative solutions to reviewing performance when working from home
• The implications for employment legislation and regulation – A number of member states are proposing to introduce changes to employment legislation and regulation to provide employees with more flexibility in the way in which they work. For example, in the UK, there is a proposal to change legislation so that employees can make a request for flexible working or move to a hybrid working approach, from the first day of employment as opposed to after 26 weeks continuous service, as long as it can be justified by the employee . Businesses will be able to decline such requests but they will need to justify why the request has been declined. It is hoped that this will lead to greater levels of engagement between businesses and their staff
• The impact of the cost of living crisis on remote working – The cost of living crisis being experienced across different EU member states has led to predictions that people will shift from working at home back to working from the office again . This is being compounded by evidence that certain employers are reducing pay or hours for staff who wish to remain working from home.
There are a number of opportunities and challenges in these issues for both small business managers and leaders, and their staff, particularly in terms of the learning and skills required to make sense of what the challenges and opportunities mean for your business and how to manage the journey from idea to action.
Over the last two years, SFEDI has been leading an Erasmus Plus project, REMOTE-CTRL (https://remotectrl.eu/), which has developed a set of bespoke learning and training resources to support small business owner-managers, and their staff, in working through the challenges and opportunities associated with remote and hybrid working patterns.
The project has developed:
• A set of learning resources for managers and leaders of small businesses to effectively support staff in working remotely. These materials and resources address eight different aspects of effective remote working (e.g. understanding the impact of personalities in remote working, supporting staff wellbeing and resilience, effective communication and collaboration when working remotely) and they include: a series of TEDx type talks; a set of masterclasses which provide a focused overview of current thinking and practices and learning exercises to prompt self-reflection; and a resource toolkit
• A set of learning resources to assist individuals looking for employment, in preparing, searching and securing employment and current employees in maintaining employment in a remote working environment. The resources consist of: a learner handbook which provides practical tips and techniques as well as learning exercises which provide an opportunity to reflect on your own understanding and skills development; a collection of self-reflection exercises; and a series of TEDx type talks
• An in-service professional development training programme for vocational education and training professionals working with small businesses to support learning and skills development of people working remotely and in a hybrid workforce
• An e-learning platform which provides access to a collection of demand-led learning resources for both managers and leaders of small businesses and their staff.
In addition, the project is currently finalising a policy paper which will examine the experiences of small businesses in managing remote working across the eight partner member states and the implications for policy and business and enterprise support development.
The REMOTE-CTRL project consists of eight partner organisations from the UK, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Poland, Portugal and Romania.
If you are interested in learning more about the REMOTE-CTRL project and the outputs to date, please visit https://remotectrl.eu/. If you are a small business owner-manager and you would like to share your experiences of supporting remote working and/or a vocational education and training professional who knows of examples of good practice in businesses managing remote working, please do get in touch. Also, if you would like to explore ways of adding value to the project, please contact Leigh ([email protected]).