Flexibility isn’t just the ‘working from home’ option

Flexible Working

We don’t yet know exactly when, but at some point in the coming weeks many of us who have been spending our working hours in the bedroom, dining room, living room or kitchen will start reconnecting with the offices we were forced to abandon more than a year ago.

What form this workplace restitution takes has been the subject of endless discussion, with a recent poll by the BBC finding that 43 of the 50 biggest employers in the UK are not planning to bring staff back to the office on a full-time basis. Surveys have repeatedly shown that among both employers and employees, hybrid working is expected to become the norm.

It is interesting that organisations are putting such focus on flexibility when research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that despite the large number of people working from home, take-up of flexible working arrangements has fallen.

It is certainly good news that employers are seemingly willing to adapt, and many would say it’s long overdue. However, it’s important to remember that flexible working doesn’t begin and end with working at home.

WFH has been a necessity during the pandemic, but it doesn’t suit everyone and shouldn’t be forced on anyone who finds it challenging. Those who live alone – or at the other end of the spectrum, those in particularly noisy households – may well be longing for a full-time return to the workplace.

The key is open consultation with every member of staff to ensure that, where possible, their needs are met. To facilitate this, companies should consider offering flexitime and other adjustable ways of working to all, regardless of whether they are in the office or elsewhere.

After such a gruelling period, some employees may want to work fewer hours, even if it means a reduction in pay. In fact, 9.3 per cent of workers polled by the Labour Force Survey wanted just that.

The pandemic will have a lasting impact on how we work, but companies looking to truly embrace “smart” practices will have to offer more than just the option of two or three days a week of replicating the 9 to 5 from home.

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Posted on May 21, 2021