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Flexible working - the future is here

Posted on 1/09/2020 by Jayne Morris

flexible working mum and son

I read with interest this week a report by Manpower Group about what employees want to see in the workplace in the near futureThe report was compiled after asking over 8,000 people in 8 countries for their input. At the same time there has been ongoing discussion in the news and media about offices re-opening, employers taking responsibility for getting their teams back in the office, back to normality and in turn helping the economy and local independent traders by resuming their activities (and spending!) 

Sadly, I personally do not think it is as simple as that.  Even if we park the concerns employees have about commuting, the pandemic has effectively ended the days of full-time office working (and coincidentally 43% of people filling in the Manpower survey agree with me on that).  Whilst this may come as a shock for some people, my opinion is that the pandemic hasn’t single-handedly brought about this change, it has purely escalated, albeit significantly, something that was going to happen anyway. 

At TPP, we have had flexible working for a long time, we have had both flexible hours and remote working as part of our culture for about six years now.  I remember when we first introduced the flexible hours back in 2014 updating a rec2rec (yes recruiters use recruitment agencies too!) who was astounded a recruitment agency would put this in place; at the time our industry had a stereotypical 7am to 7pm working culture.  Roll forward six years and a fair few are offering this now.  I must take one moment now to admit to not being the driving force for the introduction of our flexible hours, this was our very forward-thinking COO, Tracey George who quite rightly advocated for the benefits the change would bring to our workplace.  She was right and I have now become an advocate. 

We were due to make further changes to our remote working set up this year however the pandemic turned everything on its head and instead of increasing our remote working we ended up entirely dependent on it and in all honesty I can truthfully say it has worked well. 

So, what about the new-norm (a phrase which like Brexit and Furlough I would be happy to never hear again after this year)?  I feel, one of the things an entirely remote working environment has shown us, which perhaps may not have happened had this change come about gradually, is that most employees do actually miss coming into the office.  They just don’t want to go back to doing it 5 days a week!  Employees are really missing the ability to collaborate and socialise with their colleagues in person.  So, most would like the best of both worlds, this is also backed up by the Manpower survey which tells us 8 in 10 employees want remote work to better balance family life and would like the flexibility of two to three days remote working supplementing office based work. 

Organisations that prioritise their employees emotional wellbeing and offer this flexibility will be best positioned to attract and train the best talent and will ensure their team are happy, healthy, productive and invested.  This coincidentally was something I talked about back in March (pre-lockdown) when presenting at The Agenda conference. 

As TPP look to return back to the office environment we have run our own survey and asked our team their opinion and how they want to work.  Unsurprisingly our findings back up those of the Manpower reportour team miss their face to face interaction with their colleagues (there’s a lot of team love pouring out in the responses) but they do want to balance this with remote working.  This could be more prevalent in London offices where the average commute time is 75 mins which gives someone 2.5 hours back a day.  I would strongly recommend you do this too if you have not already asked the questions. It is so important that opinions are sought, not just about the future of working but also about the reality of getting back to the office now. 

There are so many challenges for employers right now however no one wants to have a “Kodak moment” and refuse to evolve and get left behind. The change that was afoot is here now.