People are going to spend up to 10% less in cities because of working from home, study says

New York outdoor dining
People dine at an outdoor Soho restaurant on March 21, 2021 in New York City.

  • Spending in major metro areas will drop by 5% to 10% because of working from home, UChicago researchers said.
  • A cutback in commuting will hit urban spending on food, shopping, and entertainment, they added.
  • This could lead to tax raises or job cuts in cities that are just recovering from the COVID-19 recession.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The post-pandemic economy will look different from the one seen in February 2020. In a word, it will be emptier. Gone are the days of an office-based 9-to-5; instead, workplaces are rolling out plans for hybrid telecommuting and even fully remote work.

But where work-from-home will benefit Americans in reducing commute times and granting extra flexibility, nobody knows just how much it will hit the urban economies that used to support office workers in the before times. University of Chicago researchers have an idea, or at least an estimate.

The post-pandemic shift to work-from-home setups will decrease spending in major metropolitan areas by 5% to 10%, researchers Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, and Steven Davis said in a working paper published on Wednesday. The shortfall could even reach 13% in densely populated areas like Manhattan, the team added, citing their own survey data.

“As these workers cut back on commuting, they will spend less on food, shopping, personal services, and entertainment near workplaces clustered in city centers,” the economists said. “Central business districts will see considerably larger spending drops relative to the pre-pandemic levels.”

Such a spending drop would present a major challenge for cities looking to recover from the pandemic’s economic fallout. Consumer spending counts for roughly 70% of economic activity and is a particularly important economic driver in areas that faced strict lockdowns throughout the health crisis.

Retail sales – a popular gauge of Americans’ spending habits – surged to record highs last month as a new wave of stimulus checks and the relaxing of some economic restrictions boosted activity. The measure is expected to climb even higher in April, but as stimulus dries up, Americans’ spending will settle into a new normal.

Cities have little to counter a permanent drop in metro-area spending. Where the federal government can spend at a persistent and growing deficit, state and local authorities have to balance their budgets. The drop in spending forecasted by the team of economists could force cities to either lift taxes or cut spending and risk more economic harm.

What is challenging for urban economies could be a benefit to how good people are at their jobs. Widespread telecommuting is projected to lift productivity by 4.8%, according to the study. Half of those gains reflect savings in diminished commuting times.

Still, those likely to benefit from more remote work aren’t the ones who need the boost. Employer plans suggest that the extent of telecommuting will rise with education and earnings, the team said. The benefits of persistent work-from-home policies “will be broadly felt but flow mainly to the better educated and highly paid,” they added.

With economic data and experts warning of an uneven economic recovery, such disparities would only exacerbate the hiring and income gaps that plagued the country before the COVID-19 recession.

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How to Start Fiverr Business? A Complete Guide for Beginners

I am going to show you How to Start a Fiverr Business step by step today. By the end, you will learn to sell your skills, therefore, making a great income. Remote Jobs are increasingly popular nowadays and everyone wants to earn more money apart from their regular work. To those people, I suggest they […]

The post How to Start Fiverr Business? A Complete Guide for Beginners appeared first on Online Home Income.

West Virginia is offering remote workers $12,000 in cash if they relocate for 2 years

West Virginia river tubing
Three women float down the Potomac River by way of rafts in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

  • West Virginia is launching a new program aimed at luring remote workers to the state.
  • Called Ascend WV, the program offers $12,000 cash and other benefits to workers who relocate.
  • Some major companies, like Twitter and Ford, have already said employees may work from home forever.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

West Virginia is hoping to lure remote workers to the Mountain State with the promise of $12,000 and a year’s worth of free outdoor activities.

The state tourism office on Tuesday announced a new program called Ascend WV aimed enticing those who work from home to move to West Virginia. Ascend WV will provide relocation packages to incoming residents, starting with 50 slots for those interested in moving to Morgantown, home to West Virginia University. The program will eventually expand to more cities across the state.

The relocation package includes:

  • $12,000 cash
  • A year of free outdoor recreation including whitewater rafting, rock climbing, ziplining, ATV-ing, golfing, and skiing
  • Over $1,200 worth of free outdoor gear rentals
  • Free access to coworking spaces
  • Professional advancement through WVU, including access to the business school’s “entrepreneurship ecosystem” and the ability to obtain remote work certifications
  • Networking events with state business leaders
  • Social events to help incoming residents meet new people

Those who move will receive $10,000 paid in monthly installments for the first year and the additional $2,000 if they stay for a second year.

Read more: If you want to ask your boss to let you work from home forever, use this script

The program is funded by a $25 million donation from Intuit executive chairman Brad D. Smith and his wife, Alys, to the Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative at WVU. The organization partnered with West Virginia’s department of tourism and department of economic development to create the program in six months.

Smith is a West Virginia native and said in a statement that he hopes the program will allow West Virginia to “capitalize on national workforce trends” by leveraging the state’s access to outdoor pursuits.

West Virginia is one of a handful of states hoping to entice remote workers amid the coronavirus pandemic. Late last year, Tulsa, Oklahoma, announced a similar program that grants workers $10,000 to relocate to the city. And earlier this year, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez partnered with Softbank Capital to invest $100 million in making the city friendlier to tech startups hoping to relocate.

The efforts come as many major companies are reconsidering the future of work post-pandemic. Companies like Ford, Twitter, Dropbox, and Slack have said employees may work from home 100% of the time. Others, including Facebook, Microsoft, and Salesforce have announced policies that allow for some of their employees to work remotely while others will come into the office at least part of the time.

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Princess Cruises is turning its ships into ‘offices at sea’ with WiFi as fast as land

Princess Cruises
Princess Cruises.

  • Many companies are now considering the possibility of a permanent remote or hybrid work model.
  • Princess Cruises is looking to target this segment by turning its ships into “offices at sea.”
  • All of Princess’ cruise ships will upgraded with “land-like connectivity” when sailing resumes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

If you’ve ever dreamed of working or studying at sea, Princess Cruises might have the perfect solution for you.

The coronavirus pandemic has obviously the traditional office structure, and more companies are considering the possibility of permanent hybrid or fully remote work models. In response to the “work from anywhere” shift, travel-adjacent businesses – especially road travel companies – have altered their products to include amenities like offices and connectivity packages in a bid to attract this growing segment.

Now, Princess Cruises is looking to do the same by introducing stronger internet connection on its cruise ships and some clever marketing

Read more: Carnival and Royal Caribbean salaries revealed: From $32,000 to $383,000, here’s how much the cruise industry’s power players pay some of their employees

Having fast and reliable Wi-Fi has become a necessity during the COVID-19 remote work period. To meet this essential function, the cruise line’s “connectivity partner” SES will be launching a new satellite constellation later this year. As a result, when cruising returns, Princess will be able to offer “land-like” internet on all of its ships, turning a boat into an “office at sea,” according to a press release.

This strong Wi-Fi connection will be accessible throughout the ships, which means guests won’t have to stay in their staterooms just to get speedy internet for work or school.

But if you’re eager to jump on board, you’ll have to wait a bit longer. Presently, the cruise line has no plans to resume sailing until, at earliest, the end of June.

Are you a cruise industry employee or have a cruise industry story to share? Contact this reporter at bchang@insider.com.

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We compared Google Meet and Zoom to see which is better for remote working and learning – and Zoom has a slight edge for large meetings

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

Google Hangouts vs Zoom 4x3
  • If you’re learning or working from home, a video conferencing tool is a must.
  • Two of the best services out there are Google Meet and Zoom.
  • Zoom supports larger meetings, but Google Meet is conveniently packaged with other Google services.

Table of Contents: Masthead StickyPro Plan (Monthly) (small)G Suite Business Account (Monthly) (small)

Two of the most popular video communication tools for remote work and learning are Google Meet and Zoom. The two services are used by workplaces and classrooms around the world. Both provide the ability to interact with other participants through video conferencing, enabling businesses and schools to conduct remote meetings and lessons through a variety of apps and devices.

But which of these tools is ultimately better? And which might work best for your needs? We put Google Meet and Zoom head to head to find out.

Google Meet vs Zoom: Which is better?

Google Meet and Zoom are both video conferencing services and they offer a lot of the same features. But one service may be a better fit for your needs depending on the size of your team and what other applications you plan to use.

When it comes purely to video conferencing features, Zoom has a slight edge over Google Meet, offering a comprehensive assortment of options at various price points. Zoom’s most expensive plan provides support for the largest number of participants.

That said, if you’re looking for a bigger collection of applications to use in tandem with your video conferencing service, then Google Meet might be a better fit. The platform, formerly known as Google Hangouts Meet, comes bundled with other helpful Google services as part of a Google Workspace subscription.

Feature comparison

Google Meet Zoom
Free option Yes Yes
Monthly price $6-$25 per user $15-$20 per license
Participants Up to 250 Up to 1,000
Meeting time limit up to 24 hours Up to 30 hours
Platforms Windows, Mac, Android, iOS Windows, Mac, Android, iOS

Pricing and plans

Google Meet and Zoom are both available in a variety of plans for different monthly costs, with certain features only available via certain packages.

Zoom plans

The basic version of Zoom is available for free, but there are some limitations to this option. Notably, you can only host meetings of up to 100 people and group meetings can only be up to 40 minutes.

Pricing for Zoom’s premium plans can get a little complicated if you need more than what the free version has to offer. Here’s a full rundown of packages:

Plan Price Participants Time Hosts
Zoom Basic: Free Up to 100 40 minutes One
Zoom Pro: $15/month/host Up to 100 30 hours 1-9
Zoom Business: $20/month/host Up to 300 30 hours 10-99
Zoom Enterprise: $20/month/host Up to 500 30 hours 50+

Starting with the Pro plan, members receive social media streaming, 1 GB of cloud recording, and personal meeting IDs. When you step up to Business, you get some advanced administrative features, like transcript recording, managed domains, and company branding. Enterprise upgrades you to unlimited cloud storage.

You can also add the “Large Meetings” add-on to any paid plan to get support for up to 1,000 participants.

Outside of its workplace plans, Zoom also has specific solutions geared toward education. Education plans are available for a minimum of 20 hosts and a max of 149 hosts. Each host can have unlimited meetings with support for up to 300 participants. You can find more information on pricing and features for Zoom’s Education plan here.

Google Meet plans

When it comes to Google Meet, you also have a few different options to choose from. Though a free version of Meet wasn’t originally available, Google now offers free access to a limited version of the service.

To unlock more features, you’ll need to pay for Google Meet as part of a subscription to Google Workspace (formerly G Suite). Workspace comes with a full suite of additional Google cloud services, including Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, and more. Here’s a full breakdown of Google Meet options via Google’s different Workspace plans:

Plan Price Participants Time Users
Google Meet: Free Up to 100 One hour (groups) One
Business Starter: $6/month/user Up to 100 24 hours 300 max
Business Standard: $12/month/user Up to 150 24 hours 300 max
Business Plus: $18/month/user Up to 250 24 hours 300 max
Enterprise: Varies Up to 250 24 hours No max

The Business Standard plan adds recording support. Meanwhile, Business Plus adds attendance tracking. Finally the Enterprise plan adds a noise-cancellation feature and “in-domain” live streaming.

Like Zoom, Google also offers education-specific Google Meet solutions. You can find more information about Google Workspace for education here.

Extra features

Zoom video conferencing

Zoom is a dedicated video conferencing service built by a company that is mainly focused on that platform. As such, Zoom is a little more comprehensive than Google Meet. Sure, Meet scores points thanks to its seamless integration with other Google apps, and the fact that it comes bundled with a host of other services, but if you’re really only looking for a video conferencing platform, those other apps won’t matter all that much.

Google Meet caps out at 250 participants and 24 hours, but Zoom can support up to 30 hours and has an option to add support for up to 1,000 participants for an extra fee. Most teams won’t need the expanded support that Zoom provides – but for some businesses, this ability could be the deciding factor.

When it comes to general features, Meet and Zoom both offer many of the same basic functions, like call encryption, support for up to 720p HD video, and presentation modes that allow for screensharing to other participants.

Google Meet has also made some big improvements over the last few months by adding additional options that were initially only found on Zoom, like polls, a tiled gallery layout for larger calls, and video filters so you can change your background. Both Zoom and Meet will let you split up calls into breakout rooms as well.

You can go further with both video conferencing services by hosting a session with a whiteboard. Participants in Meet and Zoom can also raise their hands if they have to say something in a class or company meeting.

Though Google Meet was initially missing a lot of these extra functions, the difference between both services has steadily decreased.

Integrations

Google Hangouts Meet integrations
Google Meet can integrate with other services.

Perhaps one of the most important things to consider is how each platform integrates with other services. Notably, Google Meet allows users to integrate meetings with other teams using Skype for Business, and other video meeting systems based on the SIP and H.323 standards. Meet also integrates with additional apps, including other Google services. For example, the service integrates well with Google Calendar

Zoom offers some great integrations too – including some Google apps and services. For example, Zoom integrates with Facebook Workplace, Skype for Business, Salesforce, Microsoft Outlook, Google Drive, Google Calendar, and more. While Meet may make integration with Google services a little easier, Zoom still allows many of those same integrations as well.

The bottom line

Zoom meeting
Zoom is the more comprehensive service for dedicated video conferencing needs.

Zoom offers support for the most amount of people and the longest meeting times, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right option for everyone. Zoom’s edge over Meet has diminished greatly over the last few months as Google added a lot of new features. Still, if you just want a service purely for video conferencing, then Zoom has a slight edge.

That said, if you want to use other Google services that come included with a Google Workspace subscription, then Meet will be more than good enough for your remote work or learning needs.

You can get Google Meet from the Google Workspace website, or sign up for Zoom at the Zoom website.

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Remote work is here to stay. Here’s how hiring a virtual assistant can help your company thrive.

woman laptop coffee job interview virtual
The support of a strong virtual team can make you a better leader.

  • Jeff J Hunter is an author and founder of virtual assistant staffing agency VA Staffer.
  • He says all business leaders can benefit from hiring a virtual assistant.
  • Having a flexible and well-run virtual team is key for time management and improved productivity.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

This is a very unique time to build a business. Brick and mortar companies are struggling and local “mom & pop” shops are closing at a record pace. Yet, there’s record growth for online service providers like Netflix, Amazon, DoorDash, and Zoom.

The one thing all of these growing companies have in common? They support the “stay-at-home” lifestyle and the “new normal” of working remotely.

Entrepreneurs can learn from an evolving global economy and the new normal of work. Here’s how some businesses did it:

  1. Restaurants admitted they can not replace the experience of dining in their establishments. But meals-to-go, with the inclusion of cashless payments, allowed restaurateurs to have a new lifeline.
  2. Online shopping has been around for quite some time. When the pandemic hit, the retail industry embraced the new segment of customers – mall-goers – to encourage them to buy. Online purchasing and shipping options made the transition easy for customers, and Amazon has cashed in record profits.
  3. Reduced movie-goers spending did not stop the entertainment industry from thriving. Companies pivoted to provide streaming services for stay-at-home amusement. Theaters, on the other hand, got destroyed, for obvious reasons.
  4. Local tourism, virtual tours, and travel-to-nowhere flights and cruises allowed travel lust individuals to experience traveling albeit limited. Personally, I think this is an incredible time to travel (by car) because not many are!
  5. Tech giants like Facebook and Twitter allowed their employees to work from home. Google has announced their employees will be allowed “flexible work.”

What made some businesses thrive and some permanently close? They adapted to the disruption through innovation and hard work. These two characteristics are what entrepreneurs are made of.

My own COVID adaptation

Just like every business owner, I was really worried when the lockdown was announced in March 2020. We had several clients cancel their virtual assistant services that we provided. Nevertheless, my business thrived. Since COVID, I have experienced an over 100% growth in our virtual assistant staffing agency for entrepreneurs and startups all around the world.

That’s because last year, building a “virtual team” sounded cool, but today, it’s a necessity for businesses to survive the current economic conditions.

Yes, a virtual team is the “new normal” of work. It is about time you hire one.

My secret weapon

My executive assistant Ysabelle, who is virtual, starts working for me one hour before I even wake up. This arrangement works because the first thing I do when I wake up is grab my phone off of my nightstand to check my messages. Now, Ysabelle goes through my emails and clears out all the hundreds of messages that I shouldn’t be wasting my time on. She leaves the ones that need my attention marked as “unread” with a flag.

Because I have over 100 people on my team, she knows exactly who’s responsible for certain operations in the business. So when I get an email that requires action on someone else’s part, Ysabelle sends the email to that team member and responds to the sender that we’ve got it taken care of. The sender probably thinks I sent the response – and that’s the point.

You see, I didn’t need to be in that conversation. With Ysabelle’s help, I can focus on myself and the really important activities for the day.

Why did I share this with you? I want you to understand that you can only do so much. The biggest lie is “I was about to do something but I ran out of time.” It’s simply not true. You just don’t want to be held accountable, or you don’t have adequate help so you have to prioritize what you do and don’t do each day.

If you are the only one in your business who knows everything, you are going to be a slave to your business. One of my colleagues once said, “If you don’t have an assistant, you are one.” Think about that.

Remote work is no longer a thing of the past. I don’t believe it’s going to go away. The current global crisis was a catalyst for the growing move to a virtually connected world. There is hardly anything we do in our business that can’t be done remotely, unless you physically make, or build something. Entrepreneurs who can adapt and evolve to the new “virtual workplace” and see its benefits will be able to future-proof their business as the economy moves remote.

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IBM’s CEO predicts a hybrid remote-work model for 80% of employees post-pandemic

ibm ceo Arvind Krishna

IBM is joining the growing list of tech companies planning to take a flexible approach to remote work even after the pandemic, though it does have concerns about how the strategy could impact its company culture.

IBM CEO Arvind Krishna told Bloomberg’s Emily Chang on Wednesday 80% of the company’s employees may stay in hybrid roles indefinitely, spending “at least three days a week, maybe not all eight to 10 hours, but at least some fraction of those three days, in the office.”

Krishna said 10% to 20% of employees could potentially stay fully remote, but that he worried “about what’s their career trajectory going to be.”

“If they want to become a people manager, if they want to get increasing responsibilities or if they want to build a culture within their teams, how are we going to do that remotely?” Krishna told Bloomberg.

IBM’s HR chief, Nickle LaMoreaux, had told Insider in February that most employees would need to come into the office “from time to time,” but that few would need to come in five days a week.

Currently, Krishna told Bloomberg, IBM has around 15% of its global workforce coming into the office “some” of the time, while “about 5% never went home.”

Regardless, Krishna added, the transition to a long-term hybrid model “is not going to happen overnight,” adding that parents can stay fully remote until schools reopen.

IBM is also planning to scale back its brick-and-mortar footprint as it plans for employees spending less time in the office, cutting a significant portion of the 70 million square feet of office space and 1,000 locations it had before the pandemic, according to Bloomberg.

“I would imagine that we will get rid of tens of millions,” Krishna told Bloomberg, referring to square feet of office space. “Are we going to go toward zero, absolutely not. Will we have over half of what we had, most likely.”

IBM was a pioneer in the work-from-home revolution before it largely abandoned the policy in 2017, but the company is pivoting again as others in its industry rethink how and where people will work post-pandemic.

Twitter and Salesforce are among some of the tech firms embracing a more remote workforce for the foreseeable future, while Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Uber recently announced plans to start bringing employees back to their corporate headquarters (though many of these companies’ frontline workers were never granted permission to work from home or faced disparate healthcare and paid leave or remote work policies that prevented them from doing so).

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Microsoft will open up its US headquarters to more employees by the end of the month as it embraces a hybrid workplace

Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington.
Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

  • Microsoft will open up its US headquarters to more employees beginning on March 29.
  • Employees will be able to return to the office some or all the time, or continue working remotely.
  • Microsoft is one of several major tech companies considering a hybrid schedule for employees.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Microsoft will open up its US headquarters to more employees by the end of this month, the company announced Monday.

Beginning March 29, Microsoft employees who typically work at the company’s Redmond, Washington, headquarters or nearby offices will have the option to return to those campuses some or all of the time. Employees will also be allowed to continue working remotely if they wish, Microsoft said in a blog post announcing the update.

“We’ve been closely monitoring local health data for months and have determined that the campus can safely accommodate more employees on-site while staying aligned to Washington state capacity limits,” Kurt DelBene, Microsoft’s head of corporate strategy, wrote.

Microsoft offices in 21 countries around the world have also added additional workers, with about 20% of its global workforce working at an office, according to the blog post.

“Our goal is to give employees further flexibility, allowing people to work where they feel most productive and comfortable, while also encouraging employees to work from home as the virus and related variants remain concerning,” DelBene wrote.

Microsoft said in October that it would extend its work-from-home policy until July 6, 2021 “at the earliest.” The company also announced that month that its policy going forward will allow most employees to work remotely at least half of the time – employees who wish to work remotely full time or relocate may do so with manager approval.

According to a survey Microsoft conducted among those who have already returned to the office, it seems many employees currently prefer some sort of hybrid work schedule: About half of those who have gone back to the office are spending 25% of their time there, DelBene wrote in the blog post.

Read more: Internal documents show how Microsoft’s flexible work-from-home plan will work, including getting approval from a manager to work remotely over 50% of the time or relocate

Microsoft joins many major tech companies in planning for a hybrid workforce. Salesforce announced last month that it will provide employees three new ways to work going forward. Most employees will adopt a “flex” schedule where they’ll report to the office up to three days each week for tasks that are more challenging to do over video calls, like team collaboration, customer meetings, and presentations.

Andy Jassy, the current CEO of Amazon Web Services who will take over as Amazon’s chief executive in the third quarter of this year, told CNBC in December that he predicts most people will adopt a hybrid work model. Jassy said he expects the future of work to be “hot offices” where employees decide when to come in and then reserve a desk.

Google appears likely to take some sort of hybrid approach as well: CEO Sundar Pichai said previously that he doesn’t think “the future is just 100% remote.”

“We firmly believe that in-person, being together, having that sense of community, is super important for whenever you have to solve hard problems, you have to create something new,” he said.

Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, said last year that he believes most employees still want a desk at a physical office versus working from home on a permanent basis.

“In the Seattle region, where we have sent a lot of people home,” Nadella said, “we’re realizing people would rather have workspace at work once the COVID-19 crisis goes away.”

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3 ways to introduce flexible work schedules at your company – even if you’re working from home

woman wfh entrepreneur networking laptop work
Flexible scheduling encourages productivity, retention, motivation, and leadership.

  • The traditional 9-to-5 workday is phasing out as more employees ask for flexible work schedules.
  • Marc Boscher, the founder of workflow management business Unito, says bosses should embrace flexibility.
  • He suggests testing availability hours, weekend swap days, or four-day weeks at your company.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The days of nine to five, Monday to Friday work schedules are numbered. The pandemic ushered in a new era of worker expectations, and this shift isn’t going away with any vaccine.

A huge portion of the global workforce has spent the better part of nine months working from home, adjusting to a new reality, and building new routines. The door to this new way of working wasn’t just opened. It was pulled right off of its hinges.

A November 2020 study from JLL found that, for the first time ever, workers value work-life balance more than a high salary (72% versus 69%). That same study found that 71% of workers expect more flexible schedules post-pandemic.

This isn’t a matter of employee entitlement and shouldn’t be viewed as a challenge businesses need to somehow overcome. It should be seen as an awakening to the needs of a new generation of workers. It’s an opportunity to build a workplace that values employee happiness as much as it does profit.

And to be clear, these two things aren’t mutually exclusive. There is no shortage of studies showing that employee happiness leads to greater productivity, retention, motivation, leadership, and more. Plus, the nine-to-five workday is a remnant of historical jobs and ways of working. It doesn’t map to when many of us are at our most creative, motivated, or productive.

Do the benefits of maintaining your status quo schedules and working arrangements outweigh the risks of possibly disengaging a huge part of your current and future employee base?

If you’ve come to the conclusion that change is necessary, here are three ways you can introduce schedule flexibility within your organization.

1. Availability hours versus working hours

One of the main hiccups involved in increasing scheduling flexibility is ensuring that your employees are available when you need them. If there’s an issue that needs solving or an opportunity you can jump on, will your team be there to act?

And while meetings might be changing, they’re not going away. For that reason alone, you need employee schedules to overlap at least to some degree. If you’ve ever worked at a company with international offices, you know how hard it can be to find appropriate meeting times when people are working different hours.

Whether you’re working remotely or in the office, one way to increase scheduling flexibility without creating a new set of issues for your business is to set a defined period of availability hours during the week. These are periods during which all employees need to be available – for meetings, communication, or time-sensitive tasks.

These periods shouldn’t be eight hours long. Instead, pick a period of three to four hours at the start or near the end of your typical workday. This should give your team ample time to interact with and support one another, while still providing far greater schedule flexibility. People will be able to drop off or pick up their kids from school, work late at night to avoid distractions, or simply take breaks as needed throughout the day.

While it might mean a change from your typical nine to five, availability hours should be a simple adjustment for your company – an easy trade-off to potentially increase employee happiness and productivity.

2. Weekend swap days

Is there a day in your week that is particularly chaotic? Maybe all of your kids’ extracurriculars line up and it’s nearly impossible to work regular hours or get anything done. Or maybe your partner has a weird schedule and everything falls on you?

One more question: Have you ever worked a weekend day just because you wanted distraction-free focus time?

Another way to introduce greater scheduling flexibility is by offering employees the opportunity to swap one working weekday with a Saturday or Sunday. This could see them working an adjusted week, like Sunday to Thursday, or splitting their week in two and taking Wednesdays off, for example.

This can be done as a one-off, allowing them to work a single weekend day when something comes up. But weekend swap days work much better when offered on a long term basis.

Give employees the option to work a weekend day for three- or six-month periods. This requires them to commit to a modified schedule upfront. The advantage there is it introduces stability week-to-week so the rest of your team gets familiar with their new schedule and won’t be guessing whether they’re in or out of the office day-to-day. And the employee gets to truly test whether the different schedule is a better fit for their lives.

Plus, by allowing certain roles – customer support being the biggie – to work weekends, you might even expand your service offering in the process.

3. Optional four-day work weeks

The movement behind four-day work weeks has been gaining steam for the better part of a decade. It has recently been thrust into the spotlight more widely as a result of COVID-19 but also because of several companies and even entire regions experimenting with this system. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern notably cited four-day weeks as a possible means of rebuilding the economy after the pandemic comes to a close.

In the same November 2020 TLL study cited above, 73% of professionals said they were in favor of a four-day workweek. And while you might be concerned about the effect of reduced hours on output, Microsoft Japan saw a 40% increase in productivity after introducing a shortened workweek.

While it’s clear many employees would love the added schedule flexibility, the four-day week represents the greatest logistical challenge for your company. There’s plenty to consider:

  • Will you set the specific third day off each week or let each employee decide?
  • Will you allow all employees to work four days, or will only some employees qualify?
  • Will you offer the same salary and benefits to employees working four days, or will these be adjusted?
  • Will people still work 40 hours during those four days, or will they work reduced hours?
  • Will you set a one-size fit all policy or allow managers decisional power on this?
  • Will you need to review any and all variable compensation plans?
  • Will this impact any funding programs your company may benefit from?

A four-day workweek does require a little more forethought and management, but you don’t have to jump in with both feet.

At Unito, we offer optional four-day weeks to employees who have been with the company for at least one year. We made this decision because we feel it’s essential for employees working four days to be very comfortable in their role and very capable of managing their schedule and responsibilities – which we felt was more realistic after working in the position for a year.

The decision to make the four-day week optional was a reflection of the fact that not all employees want this degree of schedule flexibility. This is especially true if your shortened week comes with a proportional decrease in salary – if people work 80% of the hours, they receive 80% of their salary. This may be a deterrent to some, though as mentioned above, work-life balance is more important than salary for a growing number of people.

This approach to the four-day week has allowed us to retain valued employees who really desired this type of arrangement, while most employees continued with their regular routines.

You have to stretch to get flexible

Changing your routine or your approach isn’t easy, but things truly worth doing rarely are. The impact a four-day week or flexible hours can have on your employees – and on your bottom line – in the long term is worth a bit of short term discomfort.

COVID-19 might have sped up the process a bit but these changes were always inevitable. Will your business be one of the first to adapt?

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Ford paves the way as the first automaker to allow 86,000 employees to work from home permanently

Ford logo
Ford’s new policy will be introduced in July.

  • Ford has become the first auto company to announce employees can work from home in the long-term.
  • The company will explore flexible arrangements from July, depending on individual responsibilities.
  • A survey showed 95% of employees wanted a hybrid form of working and felt more productive at home.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Ford has become the first automobile company to shift towards remote working on a permanent basis, according to CNBC, with around 86,000 employees being allowed to work at least partially from home.

The policy is aimed at office workers rather than factory workers, who number around 100,000 and have largely returned to work.

Hybrid work plans and remote working will depend on individual and managerial responsibilities.

“The nature of the work we do really is going to be a guiding element,” chief people and employee experiences officer Kiersten Robinson told CNBC. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last 12 months, it is that a lot of our assumptions around work and what employees need has shifted.”

Ford’s new policy will be introduced in July when most employees are expected to make at least a partial return to the office after more than a year.

“The nature of work drives whether or not you can adopt this model. There are certain jobs that are place-dependent – you need to be in the physical space to do the job,” chairman and chief executive of Ford Land, David Dubensky, told The Washington Post.

“Having the flexibility to choose how you work is pretty powerful,” Dubensky added. “It’s up to the employee to have dialogue and discussion with their people leader to determine what works best.”

Remote work coronavirus
95% of Ford employees wanted a hybrid form of working.

According to a survey conducted at Ford in June 2020, 95% of employees wanted a hybrid form of working and a number of them felt more productive at home.

The move from Ford comes after major companies including Google, Spotify, and Salesforce all announced that they were offering their employees the option to work from home permanently.

A survey conducted in January by the National Association for Business Economics suggested just one in 10 companies expected employees to return to the office after the pandemic.

“These companies are all looking at each other,” associate professor at Michigan State University’s School of Human Resources and Labor Relations, Angela Hall, told The Detroit News. “And especially someone like Ford, who is a large, respected employer – people are going to model that behavior.”

The Washington Post also reported that General Motors and Toyota were looking at flexible options for a return to the office, although they are both yet to announce new policies.

Read the original article on Business Insider