Not long ago, the news that “so-and-so is working from home today” incited widespread skepticism in the workplace. And if so-and-so really was working from home, it was only because he was stuck there, sick with the flu or waiting for a contractor.
What a difference a generation makes!
Today, about 4 million Americans regularly work from home, representing a 115 percent increase since 2005, according to Fundera. This is one group that is expected to grow – and working from home presents one of the top human resource challenges businesses will face in 2020.
1. “Permanent flexibility” beckons
Managing an employee who works from home one, two, or even three days a week doesn’t seem to be an issue for many employers. Employers that offer work-from-home flexibility have increased by nearly 40 percent in the last five years alone, indicating that employers are trying hard to catch up with demand. Apparently, they’ve registered what the work-from-home crowd has maintained all along: that remote workers are more productive, either because they work longer hours or are less distracted at home.
The challenge focuses more and more on employees’ desire for what is known as “permanent flexibility.” Even the definition is open to various interpretations. Some employees may want the chance to work their entire 40-hour-a-week schedule from home; some may want to work only three long days a week; and others may ask to keep their employers “posted” as their children’s sports commitments change.
The challenge for employers: Just how flexible can (or will) they be?
2. Is BYOD fair?
Some employers are discovering that permanent flexibility comes at another price: the cost of remote technology, to be exact. But should it?
Remote workers can make a solid case for an employer supplying a smartphone and laptop. Even employees who are traditional 9-to-5ers, in the office every day, can make a compelling case that if they’re expected to check emails after work hours, maybe their employer should help foot the bill (for the device itself or the connection).
Employers can make a strong case of their own: Since so many employees “cross beams” from their personal devices to their professional lives, maybe they should pay for their own smartphones, tablets and laptops. It’s called the BYOD culture, short for bring your own device.
The challenge for employers: Deciding which devices are vital to an employee’s job – and therefore worth paying for.
3. Small, large businesses eye outsourcing HR
The “dividing line” was invisible yet obvious for all to see: Go to practically any HR conference and you’d find the “big business” people on one side of the room and the “small business” people on the other.
These days, some commonalities have helped to blur that line, forging alliances that may have been unthinkable even five years ago as both types of businesses pass off HR functions to an outsourced provider.
Whether it’s driven by budget cuts or the need for specialization, HR outsourcing isn’t as simple as it may sound, presenting some potential challenges for small and large businesses such as:
- Culture clashes
- Information leaks
- Compliance difficulties
- Loss (or a reduction) in “the human factor”
The challenge for employers for each of these three: Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?