As we look to shift away from a pandemic dominated life, it’s plain to see how we will be better off without it. The freedom to travel and socialise at will without the impending threat of a positive lateral flow test, and to know your loved ones are safe and healthy, to name just a couple. But what part of pandemic life might be here to stay? In what ways have we perhaps developed during this period?
If all the brightest minds put their heads together, they would find it difficult to come up with many positives that came out of the last two nigh on dystopian years. However, from a business perspective, there’s one bright spot that has become glaringly obvious: the rise of flexible working will refuse to be forgotten as we gradually emerge from a world dictated by Covid regulations.
What was once a novelty, companies have now realised is a necessity, from which employers and employees alike have been benefiting.
Flexible working, whilst it has seen a boom, is nothing new. In the UK the government introduced legislation as far back as 2003 detailing the ‘right to request flexible working’, but it wasn’t until the last two years that it became routine practice. The Trades Union Congress reported that, as of June 2021, around 82% of workers in Britain would be open to flexible working in the future, with this figure at around 87% in women*. Korn Ferry predicted that re-imagining remote work would be one of the ‘Six trends that will shape how organizations reinvent themselves in 2022′.**
It’s clear to see that businesses and workers alike have integrated into the situation almost seamlessly, and both parties are growing used to the new normal. From an executive search perspective, I can see this shift happening first-hand, and the numerous benefits that come with it.
So, what are these benefits? Well, most simply, and excuse me if this is redundant, but it is flexible. I see clients who will offer 100% remote roles, and part-time or flexible hours. I personally operate with flexible hours and can vouch for how much-added freedom this allows me. More freedom means the ability to fit work around your passions and interests, to be able to turn off your laptop and rest your eyes for an hour in the middle of the day without being reprimanded.
It also means the freedom to focus fully on the things that transcend the importance of work. Those looking to return to work gradually, perhaps having recently become a new parent, now appreciate the freedom to drop back into a working environment at a pace that suits their needs. Working mums need a work/life balance more than anyone, and more and more companies are accommodating for that.
Take recruitment for example. Often a return-to-work mum will not necessarily want to drop straight back into the high-pressure role she was in before. Therefore, many firms nowadays are offering the chance to stay in the industry without having to immediately return to the high-stakes, time-consuming role they were in beforehand. Where before they may have been on the hook for business development and receiving high targets, the nature of having a newborn simply doesn’t allow for those pressures, and search firms understand that.
For those that work full-time hours, the freedom to operate in a hybrid style has been revolutionary to many. As mentioned, many companies nowadays are offering 100% remote roles as the nature of the job, in conjunction with the technology available, has seen the need for an office presence made redundant in many cases. The increased use of shared databases, Zoom, Slack, and all in one platforms such as the G-Suite, have allowed remote working to be as efficient as doing it in person.
For many, this change has even seen an increase in productivity. A survey conducted by Flexjobs found that 65% of people felt more productive working from their home office, and only 3% claimed they were less so.*** This fact, combined with the obvious decrease in operating costs for a company, means it’s no surprise that 74% of companies intend to make the full transition to remote work after the pandemic has subsided.****
That’s not to say there aren’t potential negatives to the switch. If not managed correctly there can certainly be breakdowns in communication channels, and the loss of direct face to face interaction can have a significant effect on team bonding opportunities. For both these factors, the solution is simply how effectively these issues are managed in the wake of this new look. Whether that be an increased focus on ensuring communication channels are effective or putting structures in place to offer employees more support, there are certainly ways to offset the potential drawbacks of remote working.
This article was written by Oliver Brown, Research Associate.
Leave a comment