After years of fighting for more flexibility within the workplace, it is clear working more flexibly is becoming the new normal. Workers and their unions have spent decades trying to convince employers that applying a more flexible approach to their business is beneficial to both employees and to the employer’s bottom line.
One of the things the coronavirus pandemic has shown us is that flexible working can create a productive and beneficial way of working indirectly or directly. Flexible working can be flexible hours, for example fixed days or fixed hours within a working week, working part-time, job sharing and the most common one of late – remote working.
The direct benefits for employers include savings on office space, for example, using technological advances to allow remote working and hot desking. Flexible working also allows a better match between business resources and demand, for example 24/7 customer support.
Indirect benefits are achieved through improved employee job satisfaction and wellbeing too. Flexible working can create a higher level of job satisfaction and can also reduce absence rates. It enables employees to manage disability and long-term health conditions, as well as supporting their mental health and stress.
Technology and digital platforms have allowed employers to apply more flexibility in the way their employees can work. It offers accessibility and transparency, clearly enables them to attract talent and keep attrition low, gives them the opportunity to offer a work-life balance which is crucial for people who have caring responsibilities, or who struggle to have access for affordable housing within the large cities.
The advantages for workers are many. They include; not having to commute to work – saving time and cost, the flexibility of having more time with family and having more time – the time usually spent commuting – to do things like going to the gym or walking the dog or having time to eat healthily.
Many companies have adopted the hybrid approach which enables employees to work so many days from the office and from home. This I believe can help people who do not wish to entirely work from home and encourages collaboration, interaction amongst colleagues and to ensure there are no missed opportunities for progression.
We should all be looking at the long-term benefits for employers and employees rather than just putting quick fixes in to address issues or concerns created by not applying a flexible approach.
The pandemic has forced companies and organisations to improvise, adapt and overcome many hurdles. Allowing employees to work flexibly has undoubtedly kept some business trading and workers in employment and highlighted the benefits this can give going forward. We need to ensure we retain all of those benefits through the recovery period and beyond.
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