Advancements in technology and connectivity have undeniably swept in a new golden era for remote working. Last year, 38 percent of Americans were permitted to work from home at least one day a week (PDF) — and almost half of all professionals considered leaving their jobs due to a lack of flexibility.
Yet while generous remote working opportunities may attract top talent and foster a positive office culture, some industries have started to experience an unexpected backlash from encouraging remote working.
The biggest issue has been the overtime expectations that appear to come hand-in-hand with flexible work options.
Because more and more companies have begun to offer remote working as an office perk, there’s been a recent spike in the number of professional positions that are overtime exempt. As a result, workers in America, Europe and Asia have all complained of the introduction of unrealistic overtime demands across a wide range of industries — leading to government intervention, legal battles and more.
Here in the U.S., the Department of Labor has been attempting to issue a new Overtime Rule designed to increase the minimum salary for overtime exempt employees from $23,660 to $47,892 per year in order to compensate for unlogged hours. That particular policy was scheduled to go into effect on December 1, 2016, but a federal judge issued an injunction blocking the policy in November amidst objections from business leaders.
The resuscitation of the rule seems unlikely under the administration of President-elect Donald Trump.
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Across the Atlantic, another court battle in France saw workers earn the “right to disconnect” and refuse to check their work emails after business hours without the fear of being penalized by employers.
In December, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare unveiled plans to establish a new office dedicated to addressing excessive labor after the suicide of an advertising employee whose death was directly linked to being overworked.
Bearing all this in mind, business owners would do well to take it upon themselves to tread carefully in terms of how best to approach the introduction of remote working opportunities.
It’s true that workers value flexibility. Studies indicate professionals are more content and more productive when they’re permitted the ability to work when and where they’d like. For many companies, that increase in morale and efficiency may be foolish to ignore.
Yet as flexible working patterns become more commonplace, it will fall on employers and their staff to strike a reasonable balance between flexibility and out-of-office and overtime expectations. Because if flexibility becomes an excuse for unreasonable demands on employees’ time, evidence suggests the results could be a talent exodus, legal action or worse.
Overtime Photo via Shutterstock