For many people in the UK, 2020 has been the year of remote working, and there’s no sign of a change to government guidance around this any time soon.
There seems to be a real divide between those who prefer working from home and feel more productive doing so and those, on the other hand, who are desperate to separate work from home life again and return to an office environment. So, once the pandemic is finally over, will there be a rise in flexible working?
Despite reports of businesses making plans to move away from traditional office working, a recent survey by the Office for National Statistics* showed that 67% of British firms do not intend to keep home working as a permanent business model. That said, many companies have reported little impact on their productivity levels with staff working from home, so a review of flexible working options will definitely be on the cards.
Certainly from conversations we have been having recently with candidates, the pandemic has raised awareness of the potential benefits of flexible working and it is now becoming more of an expectation and a key part of negotiations around job offers.
When you think back to life pre-COVID, there was something of a stigma around flexible working in that it was only really an option for women and was likely to hamper career progression. Widespread home working seems to have challenged this view, with many men now also feeling the positive effects of being able to pick their children up from school on a regular basis and not wanting to relinquish this benefit.
In terms of recruitment, we’re also noticing a change in candidate attitudes to travel to work time where many are now willing to consider a longer commute if a role offers flexible working options. The extra travel becomes less of an issue when it is only a couple of days per week, rather than five.
Our 2020 Salary and Benefits Survey, carried out late last year, revealed that almost 30% of respondents were offered flexible working as a benefit, up 6% on the previous year. This increase led us to wonder if there was a trend starting or if it was just an anomaly, but the pandemic is likely to exacerbate the trend.
So it seems that companies who don’t offer flexible working in the future may start to suffer in terms of their talent acquisition and retention.
Advice from the CMI is that flexible working should be offered to employees from day one and not just exist in a flexible working policy that employees have to request or even earn. The challenge for managers is ensuring that all staff are kept motivated and engaged wherever they are working, and much of this is down to good communication.
Is your company flexible working policy likely to change as a result of the pandemic?
*Business Impact of COVID-19 Survey