Having Fun in the Sun (or Rain) While Working? - as published in CityAM


3 mins

Posted on 10 Aug 2016

Do you like to listen to music while working? Radio, iPod or live at V Festival while you work via wifi?

As more and more businesses embrace the agile working culture, more and more employees are free to work from their location of choice. But is it really OK to work from a music festival? There are a string of music festivals planned over the summer months. Before packing your notebook to work remotely from a tent, make sure you and your employer agree about the rules.

The wording of company policies on flexible working is often less than clear and open to interpretation. Often a policy will confirm the minimum number of contracted hours an employee is expected to work in the course of a week, without stating when the hours should be worked. Policies tend to include lots of language about focusing on meeting business requirements or delivering customer requirements and little about when, how and where work should be done.

If an accountant promises tax advice or a lawyer promises a piece of legal drafting for noon on a Friday, what’s to stop them from drafting it between 8pm and midnight the night before and spending all of Friday moshing at a festival? The short answer is ‘nothing’ unless the employer has set out different expectations. Festival-goers sometimes like to have a beer or two. Should employers expect their employees to stay teetotal? Outside of transport, engineering and other industry sectors where workers are handling machinery, it is relatively rare for companies to have a policy. Most businesses expect employees to exercise good judgment - there is often a slightly vague statement to the effect that drinking is OK as long as it doesn’t affect performance. This might make it difficult for an employer to take offence when they spot their agile worker on camera waving their lager (plastic of course, health and safety!) glass from the crowd.

“Enjoying yourself” too much is not an excuse for rushed work, uninhibited language, poorly thought-through opinion and errors that cause embarrassment. Here the rules aren’t fuzzy: employees can be expected to work diligently and to exercise reasonable care over their work whether working in the office or elsewhere. The same rules apply to an employee’s work irrespective of where the work is done. Employers would be well within their rights to introduce a system to monitor the standard of work from flexible employees.

Tents are difficult to secure and companies don’t want to risk confidential data being leaked. Most agile working policies will state that employees need to ensure that they are working from a suitable environment. If it is important for employees to be able to receive and make calls from a location which is free of noise and where the conversation is not likely to be overheard, then employers should set clear guidance.

In particular, they should make sure the policy specifies core business hours, places limits on the places where employees may work, and sets out the rules on drinking alcohol during working hours. The consequences for employees that don’t respect the rules, put the employer’s confidential information at risk, or produce sub-standard work should also be explicit.

If employers do not want work being undertaken from the beer tent at V Festival later this month, or any other leisure venue, it is sensible to say that expressly in the policy. Employees will then know that they need to book the day off!

This article, by Jennifer Nicol, was originally published in City AM at http://www.cityam.com/246918/meetings-mud-can-you-work-festival

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