This year has seen flexible working in action. From remote working, shifts in working hours and adapting to Covid-19 restrictions, the formalities of 9-5 office working hours are well and truly out the window.
So, what will be the fallout of 2020 in terms of the new work-life landscape?
Which practices would you like to adopt, and what do you want to throw in the skip?
A prime example of the positive gains from adopting a flexible work approach is with Zurich Insurance. Employing over 4,500 people in the UK, they recently made the news because of a policy change to employ a flexible workforce.
According to Steve Collinson, Zurich’s Head of HR,
“simply by adding six words to our job adverts [offering flexible working arrangements]” and
“By offering roles that fit flexibly around family life, employers could open the floodgates to a much wider pool of untapped talent.
“This will also help women progress into higher paid jobs whilst fitting other commitments around their careers,” he added.
Since changing its policy on job adverts, the number of women hired for top roles has risen by 33%.
So, what does this mean for the future?
Many tech firms are taking the lead on this approach, suggesting that following the success of remote working during the lockdown and the increased productivity levels, employees can work from home indefinitely, if they wish to do so.
Human resources experts have applauded both working from home and shorter working weeks as an alternative to a mass return to offices. Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook have led the way, announcing their plans to expand their remote workforce and encourage employees to work from home ‘forever’.
“As we start to return to workplaces and find a new normal, alternative working pattern will also help reduce commuter traffic and with social distancing measures,” said HR consultant Emily Draycott-Jones.
“Covid has made employers move away from traditional thinking that productivity is contingent upon set hours within an office environment,” she added.
How technology has accelerated our approach
Microsoft Teams and Zoom are commonplace in every home across the globe right now. From students and teachers to corporate firms and employees, everyone has embraced the accessible vice of online chat.
The ability to connect across the globe at the touch of a button has revolutionised the way we do business. It isn’t a new concept at all, but it’s undoubtedly accelerated the rate at which many organisations are now adopting this as a permanent strategy to conduct business.
Before 2020, many organisations still relied on in-person meetings, long-distance travel and long days in the office. The forced embrace of technology has opened opportunities which perhaps we hadn’t been brave enough to adopt full-time just yet?
The future: 2021 and beyond
As we started discussing at the beginning of this piece, the flexible approach has enabled many more women to apply for senior positions. However, it’s not just women who are taking advantage of current opportunities. Men are thriving too.
- The expense and time commuting are no longer a necessary evil
- Long days in the office are a thing of the past
- Family time is quality time, and more employees are home for dinner with their families.
- Shorter shifts, job shares, and a four-day week mean a better work-life balance
- Mental health can improve with less pressure and better sleep
What happens next is not just down to employers. It’s a conversation which needs to be discussed with employees too.
For some people, the flexible work approach is an opportunity to get back into work, apply for more senior roles and adopt a better work-life balance. For others, it presents new challenges such as isolation, more time in online meetings and lack of socialisation and direct contact with their peers and bosses. However, the landscape is changing. This is your opportunity to throw out the rule book and create an environment that works for you and your employees. Whatever you decide, make sure all your documents, handbooks and contracts are up to date, legally compliant and reviewed regularly.