Employers might have to get used to flexible working

The coronavirus outbreak threatens to disrupt the economy, everyday life and workplace culture. Employers need to figure out how they’ll implement flexible working if they have to.

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Coronavirus is dominating the headlines and bringing disruption. A lot of employers are suddenly having to get to grips with the practicalities, legalities and niceties of flexible working.

Already we’re seeing more people working from home, either by choice or because their bosses insist on it.

In China, where the coronavirus started, they’ve had to radically re-think working culture and quickly. Even workplaces previously regarded as unsuitable for flexible working have taken it up. For example schools in Hong Kong have started teaching remotely.

If you’re an employer attracted by the evidence in favour of flexibility but put off by the practicalities you may be forced to take the plunge. So getting it right is important.

A recent podcast by Jane Sparrow and Chris Preston from the Culture Builders, who work with organisations in China and Hong Kong, many of whom are having to implement remote working for the first time, even if only temporarily, focuses on how employers can make it work for them.

Making remote working effective

They highlight that it can be difficult if people are used to being with work colleagues every day and especially if they have family members at home, for instance, if schools are closed due to the coronavirus. Sparrow says the latter can create an additional emotional stress.

The Culture Builders suggest four main ways to make remote working effective:

  • Maintain focus. For instance, they suggest making a priority list of work tasks to do during the day so the day doesn’t slip away.
  • Keep connected. Whether that is through video calls or hangouts or any other means. It is important to keep connected on a daily basis, even if it is just to say hello to colleagues.
  • Avoid distractions, for instance, getting lost in social media. It is better to allot specific time slots for checking social media rather than having it on all day in the background.
  • Maintain a positive energy. That means moving around regularly rather than staying slumped in front of the computer all day and eat well.


Sparrow talks about the need to use temporary remote working effectively. “Use this period as well as you can,” she says. “Think about how you can learn and grow from it. Get stuff done that you always wanted to do, but didn’t have time for.”

Preston adds that imposed remote working due to the coronavirus can help employers to understand better the pressures on people who regularly work from home. Sparrow adds that, while some people thrive through working from home, others find it a challenge and says it can be stressful if people are not used to it.

*The Culture Builders are offering a free webinar on 13th March at 9am GMT where they will share tips and tools that will help remote workers and their teams stay connected whilst working virtually. You can sign up here – Making Remote Working Work.  Their podcast on the topic is available here – The Challenge of Remote Working.

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