The flexible working revolution has arrived – here’s why business need to adapt
Nic Redfern, Finance Director, KnowYourMoney.co.uk
The traditional workplace culture today is a far cry from what it was even a decade ago. Arguably, one of the most significant shifts that has taken place is workers’ changing attitudes towards flexible working.
Flexible working is an arrangement whereby workers enjoy more freedoms in terms of how long, where, and when they work. There are plenty of reasons why this has become an attractive proposition, be it reducing the number of hours spent commuting between home and the workplace, to fitting work around one’s personal and family commitments. And importantly, the option to work from home one or two days a week, or to shift working hours to better fit a personal schedule, has become a key consideration for people when exploring their job options.
With the world of work changing, this presents an opportunity for businesses to better support the needs of their workers. So how can companies adapt to this trend and make flexible working work better for both employees and their employers?
How strong is the allure of flexible working?
To uncover professionals’ attitudes towards flexible working, Know Your Money recently conducted a survey of more than 2,000 UK adults in full-time or part-time employment, which explored some of the major changes that are shaping the future of work.
The standout takeaway from the research is that employees are seeking greater control over certain aspects of their working lives – even if it means making certain sacrifices. Almost half (49%) of the people we surveyed said they would be in favour of a four-day working week, even if it meant they would have to take a 20% pay cut. Three-quarters (75%) would also be in favour of a shortened working week if they still had to complete their current number of weekly working hours in fewer days.
Meanwhile, just over 70% of UK employees consider flexible working (in terms of hours and location) as very important to their overall job satisfaction, with women placing a higher emphasis on this than men. What these findings ultimately show is that workers feel their employers have not yet caught up with the flexible working trend, despite strong inroads being made in recent years to promote change.
Why should businesses take flexible working seriously?
Businesses seeking to acquire, and retain, top talent must consider how they can offer a more supportive workplace environment. Indeed, most employees will have commitments outside of the world of work – from childcare to looking after elderly relatives, or even simply pursuing other interests – which cannot always fit around the traditional 9 to 5 schedule.
The business case for flexible working has also been demonstrated time and time again. The Chartered Institute for Personal Development (CIPD), for instance, recently released guidance on flexible working, noting that in many cases it has led to improvements in motivation, creativity, mental wellbeing and productivity levels.
How can businesses support the needs of their employees?
First and foremost, it’s important to be open-minded to the mutual benefits linked with flexible working patterns, while also acknowledging the logistical barriers that exist within an organisation which might prevent employers being able to seek out flexible arrangements. The responsibility has now shifted onto employers to offer flexible working options and ensure that the people they employ are well-equipped to carry on their activities regardless of when or where they are working. Of course, implementing such change will differ based on profession.
It’s difficult to talk about flexible working without also recognising the important role that technology plays in enabling remote working. Smartphones, tablets and laptops with access to online data storage, shared file services, emails and electronic resources now mean that a significant majority of office-based tasks can be completed almost anywhere so long as an internet connection is to hand.
As more and more workers demand work flexibility, it’s essential that companies invest to ensure they have the online systems in place for their employees to operate outside the remit of the office. This isn’t limited to physical devices, but also extends to software solutions like Slack which enable connectivity – allowing employees to communicate effectively and share data as and when they need to.
Ultimately, the main goal of flexible working is to help employees achieve a better work-life balance. And there’s no denying that this is becoming a priority for many of the country’s workers. As demonstrated from the Know Your Money research, workers are open to flexible working arrangements that strike the right balance between required hours in the office and the opportunity for remote working.