Meetings in the mud: Can you work from a festival?

 
Jennifer Nicol
2015 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival - Weekend 1 - Day 3
Enjoying yourself too much is not an excuse for poor grammar, ill-conceived ideas and careless errors (Source: Getty)
o you like to listen to music while you work? Listening to Spotify in the office is one thing, but what about answering emails at a festival? As more and more businesses embrace the agile, flexible working culture, more employees are free to work from their location of choice.


But is it really acceptable to work from a music festival?

There are still a string of festivals planned over the coming weeks, so before packing your laptop to work remotely from a tent, make sure you and your employer agree about the rules.

Work policies

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.

Teetotal?

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 judgement – there is often a slightly vague statement to the effect that drinking is alright as long as it doesn’t affect performance.

Read more: Scientists create wee-ly good festival toilets that generate electricity

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 poor grammar, ill-conceived ideas and careless errors. 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, regardless 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.

Security

Tents are difficult to keep 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 staff who 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.

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