Flexible Working – Passing Fad, Nice To Have, Or The Future of Work?
Last Updated on 11th May 2021 by Freddie Chirgwin-Bell
COVID-19 has had a long-lasting effect on the world of work. From lockdowns to furlough, it’s also forced employers to deploy flexible working solutions, making sure people can work from home.
However, now that the end is in sight, with lockdowns being lifted, the changes made to the workplace may stick. As The Sun reports “Nearly ALL of Britain’s biggest 50 firms plan flexible work-from-home model after Covid”. What’s been suggested is that they will allow staff to work from home two or three days a week post-pandemic.
The Government’s Flexible Working Task Force is even considering guidance that will support hybrid working after the remaining restrictions lift for all businesses according to i Newspaper. According to a CIPD survey, more than 60 per cent of employers plan to introduce or expand the use of hybrid working. More than 70 per cent said homeworking had no detrimental impact on productivity in the pandemic.
Now, this is big news as near famously before the pandemic, working in an office was the norm and companies refused to shift from this methodology. So, what’s changed? What are the benefits of this? Is it a passing fad or is it the future of work?
Before the pandemic, only around 5% of the workforce worked mainly from home. Now, with lockdowns around the world, the number of people working from home has increased at a breakneck speed.
However, current forms of flexibility are very different from typical flexible working. With everything that has happened employees are balancing work with childcare, home-schooling, and supporting vulnerable relatives all from working in kitchens and living rooms.
Aside from these considerations, however, flexible working has provided an insight as to what would happen should a business move entirely to this model in “normal” circumstances. This has revealed the benefits of flexible working to businesses, namely what it can offer the business and the individual.
Flexible work options can help you achieve a better work-life balance and can dramatically reduce the costs and time associated with travelling to and from the workplace (a commute to the kitchen table doesn’t cost anything).
A lot of people have seen the primary benefit of this option, you can balance your personal commitments such as studying, family and hobbies with your work commitments.
Flexible working namely provides one thing: control. If you feel you have a choice over where you work or how long you work, it engages your mind more, focusing on the core needs of your role and making you generally happier at work.
Being in control also provides a secondary benefit, it reduces the likelihood of stress. The flexibility encourages regular breaks, time off work, and working from home can be a relaxing quiet environment (for some). All these individual elements lead to reduced stress levels.
A big thing that many overlook is how much it opens up your recruitment prospects. Flexible and remote working allows business owners to attract and retain talented employees who may not live in the area or who can’t be in an office environment regularly.
This means you can work with companies further afield but it also allows businesses to implement a flexible company culture that values the needs of their employees.
Overall flexible working can provide more focused work, greater engagement with your work, and higher productivity levels overall. It can help to boost employee morale and increase happiness in the workplace.
This will help build a better environment with you, and your company, as well as provide a balance in all your commitments.
When it comes to flexible working, that requires change. Change is scary for a lot of employers and so they may have difficulty dealing with requests to work flexibly. Unless there is a fixed flexible working policy in place a lot of companies feel lost as to how to implement this. ACAS has suggested employers may wish to “put names in a hat”.
Employers could lay themselves open to discrimination claims if they only agree to flexible working requests for parents and carers, or vice versa. This can put off employers implementing this, but also conversely put off employees working in that environment.
Another massive issue is communication. Having communication in such a team does present logistical challenges. It’s no longer as simple as talking face to face with a whole team, it’s organising meetings and phone calls to ensure everyone is on the same page.
This can also lead to people, especially managers, feeling a lack of control and/or awareness of the work being carried out. What’s the progress? Have there been any issues? Is the work done? Where is that report? These are just some questions that can go through your mind.
A lack of communication with colleagues can also limit the cohesiveness and productivity of teams as well as the exchange of ideas.
There may be communication breakdowns if it is difficult to get hold of staff which may impact the coordination of projects/meetings/phone calls.
Certain people don’t thrive at home, in fact, they need a structured environment to thrive at work. It can be hard to motivate yourself if you are not in a work environment and become easily distracted.
It can be hard to switch off if working from home. It can be really tempting to log on at 11pm at night when that urgent email comes into your inbox!
It can also be lonely. Many people enjoy a work environment and having banter in the workplace – working from home can isolate people and make them feel like they are missing out on the fun.
It can be difficult to manage performance fairly across full-time and part-time employees and especially if people are working from home regularly.
With the temptation of all the distractions at home, as well as extended regular breaks, it can be easy for you to “slack off”. Some people need that sense of external discipline that exists in a normal office/working environment with management over-looking their work.
For the vast majority of people, flexible working offers opportunity. That opportunity, to most, has more pros than it does cons. It provides a great middle-ground than entirely remote working or office presenteeism.
Now whilst this is not the cure-all for all of your office-based woes, it does provide a new environment that can provide exceptional results for both you but also for the company.
Implementing these policies has shown exceptional results for several companies, with the lockdown forcing their hands, however, the continued use of flexible working is going to be a “wait and see”.