While not new, flexible working has become de rigueur due to the pandemic with many businesses adopting ‘agile working arrangements’ or ‘hybrid working policies’.
From the start of the pandemic (and ever since) academics and observers have been looking at the effect of the rise in flexible working arrangements and asking if it is a good thing. For many flexible arrangements mitigated the various rules in place to restrict people mixing and reduced the risk of ‘contagion’, so were essential to prevent the wheels falling off. It is no longer a requirement, post-covid for such arrangements to remain in place but almost all businesses recognise that attitudes to going to the office have changed dramatically and flexible working in one form or another seems to be here to stay.
It was already an employees’ market before covid and challenges to the world’s economies since appear to be keeping it that way. The result being that workers can resist moves by employers to return to old ways with employers having to work out ways of ensuring collaboration, creativity, knowledge sharing and ways to maintain the business’ ‘personality’. For many bosses this is an irritating distraction. For some it is an obstacle.
As well as those then unforeseen events that changed the way we work, those other things that continue to change kept changing too. Nothing stays the same! Younger workers entering the market put different values on different things with the result that ‘the old guard’ might comment that we no longer seek ‘a work life balance’ as much as we consider how much work are we prepared to do in our lives.
Either way, the result is that employers need to find ways to cater for staff whose expectations, tolerance levels and attitudes towards work have changed. To get it right, businesses will need to work out where the limits are to be found regarding working hours, levels of actual presence as opposed to virtual presence and ‘contact-ability’. Then bespoke systems need to be adopted to facilitate those practices.
The theory is that businesses which balance the need for collaboration (etc) with appropriate levels of flexible working which satisfy the needs, expectations and preferences of staff will thrive in an increasingly competitive market place. But while we continue to tinker with systems and policies, changes in the economy could shift power from the employee to the employer and a more pre-covid conservative model of flexible working will return the upper hand to the employer. Time will tell.
The employment team at Thompson Smith and Puxon work closely with employers assisting with the creation and development of flexible working arrangements and the application of them in real time. We will be very interested to hear your views on flexible work in today’s workplace and have prepared a very short survey that we would be very grateful if you were to complete.
Please take the survey here.