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Flexible Working - How the pandemic has changed our future way of work

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The Pandemic has accelerated the progression of flexible working, with many companies looking to change the way they work permanently. The main barriers faced when implementing flexible working are the misconceptions, fears from management (and employees) and the culture of the organisation, i.e., ‘the way we do things around here’.

Myths & Fears

One myth that has been exacerbated by the Pandemic is that flexible working means working from home. However, this is just one element and many businesses quickly realise they already support a lot more flexible working options than they initially thought. Examples include part-time, shift, flexi-time, job-shares, phased retirement, compressed hours, term-time contracts and remote working, to name just a few.

It’s important that leadership teams start to openly explore and understand their reservations so they can better plan the future shape of their organisation. They can start to overcome these reservations through mindset shifts or by creating action plans to address them. Often there are underlying fears such as loss of control or a belief that employees won’t deliver if they can’t be seen.

Other common misconceptions include the belief that flexible working is something just for parents or carers, or that it’s introduced for the employees’ benefit only. However, there is now more and more evidence that clearly shows flexible working can be incredibly beneficial to the organisation too.

What are the Benefits of Flexible Working?

  • There has been a seismic shift to work design with 70-80% of employees being interested in pursuing flexible working (People Management, Dec 2020). It is the future way of working!

  • It is an enabler for agile working which can optimise performance through responsiveness and increased innovation.

  • It attracts and retains talent, reducing skills shortages.

  • It can increase performance, productivity and therefore profits. In Japan, Microsoft saw a 40% increase in productivity when they introduced a 4-day week, for example.

  • Flexible working can have a part to play in improving diversity and inclusion and reducing the gender pay gap. For example, in 2019 Zurich saw a 33% increase in the number of women hired for senior roles by adding ‘job share, part-time or flexible working’ into their recruitment adverts.

  • Increase employee wellbeing - improved work-life balance and reduction in sickness.

  • Employee engagement - 73% of companies have seen an increase in motivation due to flexible working (Timewise).

Top Five Tips to Make Flexible Working Successful

1. Leadership

Change needs to come from the top. Leaders who role model the behaviours will provide employees with the confidence that they can work flexibly too, without the fear of judgement and concerns such as ‘I won’t get promoted if I am not seen to be working late in the office’.

2. Trust

Manage by output rather than hours. The Pandemic has provided the opportunity for managers to see that people still deliver when working flexibly. Empowering your employees leads to discretionary effort.

3. Culture

Culture change takes time and continuous reinforcement. One strategy is to embed flexible working into wellbeing rather than diversity and inclusion, with the message that flexibility is for everyone in our organisation and is part of who we are.

4. Commitment

Often things can fall down at line manager level, so there needs to be training and commitment at all levels of the organisation.

5. Communication

Flexible working is a two-way process, the communication needs to be open, often and clear. Expectations need to be managed and assumptions explored, for example the meaning of flexible working can be interpreted differently. What does it mean within your organisation?

 

The CIPD launched “Flex From 1st” campaign in February 2021 to make flexible working more accessible for all, calling on organisations and government to make the right to request flexible working a day one right. Flex is the future way of working and organisations can access a wider pool of untapped talent to increase business success by embedding it into their culture. 


About the Author

Laura Kingston is a Transformational Coach, and founder of Leap Career Coaching, who works with organisations of all sizes to successfully embed flexible working into their culture.

If you want to find out more about working with Leap Career Coaching, email laura@leapcareercoaching.co.uk or visit www.leapcareercoaching.co.uk to book in a free consultation call. You can also catch up with Laura on these social media sites:

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