Over the coming weeks, we’ll be exploring a range of aspects relating to the future of work. We ran through the top 10 future of work trends in our first article, and this is our first “in-depth” look at what businesses and employees can expect as we move forward. If you would like to have each of these posts delivered straight to your inbox, be sure to subscribe to our Future of Work-dedicated newsletter.
COVID-19 has seen businesses adopt flexible working in their droves. What was once a relatively niche human resources strategy has become a commonplace practice.
The widespread adoption of flexible working during the pandemic has helped to curb the spread of the virus, protect jobs and enable business continuity. Now, the UK Government is even considering an expansion of employees’ rights to work flexible hours or from home.
Could laws around the current state of flexible working be strengthened?
Aside from the obvious business continuity and wider economic benefits, remote working, which is one of the most popular types of flexible working, has the potential to significantly enhance the employee experience. Eliminating the commute and providing people with some autonomy over their schedule can work wonders for productivity.
On the other hand, if not managed properly, flexible working can lead to feelings of loneliness and burn-out. Also, not all jobs are compatible with remote working, especially those that aren’t office-based, such as manufacturing.
That said, there’s always room for some form of flexibility.
Even jobs that rely on the employee being on-site or in the office can offer flexible arrangements such as staggered shift patterns and leave during the school holidays.
Before we delve a little deeper into how flexible working could work in the short-term, let’s take a look at some recent statistics. In February 2021 Citrix released this poll on remote work during the pandemic.
3,750 European office-based workers were questioned on what they thought about their current working situation, company culture, and the impact of the pandemic on their wellbeing, career and work/life balance.
Here are some of the key findings:
The flexible working concept is evolving to incorporate many different aspects. Essentially, flexible working is a way of working that offers employees a degree of control over where, when and how they work.
Employers can include flexible working policies in their employee handbook or amend an individual’s contract when flexible working arrangements are implemented. Some, however, decide to offer flexible working as an informal agreement.
Remote working (also known as “teleworking” or “telecommuting”) isn’t the only type of flexible working. Flexible working also includes:
Term-time working (where the employee can take paid or unpaid leave in the school holidays)
Job sharing (a type of part-time work where two or more people share a role)
Flexitime (an arrangement that gives individuals some freedom over when they start and finish work)
Commissioned outcomes (where there are no fixed hours; instead, the employee works towards an output)
Time off for volunteering or training
CIPD, the leading professional body for HR and people development, asked people from across the HR profession what flexible working means to them on both a personal and professional level. Here's what they said:
Although remote work has huge benefits, it can be detrimental to people’s mental health. In fact, 35% of respondents in Citrix’s study said that their mental health had deteriorated over the last 12 months. 85% said that a company culture that promotes mental and/or physical wellbeing is important to them.
An ONS study also found that remote work is taking its toll – of the respondents who reported high anxiety levels, more than one in five said they had been asked to work from home (a similar number said they were experiencing difficulties working from home).
So, what can companies do to ensure their remote work and wellbeing policies align?
As the employee’s first point of contact, line managers must be equipped to spot signs of mental ill-health, have supportive conversations with workers and be able to signpost them to relevant resources. The mental health charity Mind has a wealth of useful information and resources that employers can utilise and adapt for their own organisation.
E-presenteeism is when remote workers feel like they always need to be in front of their screen and working. This leads to low productivity levels, and eventually, burnout.
To combat e-presenteeism, employers should encourage their remote workers to take screen-less breaks throughout the day and take time off, even if it’s just to have a break from work for a few days.
Physical health is also important, of course. Sitting in an unsupportive chair or at a kitchen table can wreak havoc with posture and lead to back and neck issues. Increasingly, employers are committing to funding equipment such as desk chairs, desks and screens.
As remote working “beds in” to work culture, we also expect employers to focus more on output over input. Measuring someone’s performance against how many hours they spend at their desk can be detrimental to confidence and success.
Speaking of people management, Claire Campbell, programme director at the flexible working consultancy Timewise, explains that measuring performance on results could also boost opportunities for a more diverse group of people.
“If we properly manage staff by outcome, and they work their day more flexibly from home, then we could see different people rising to the top and being successful.”
For guidance, practical tools and resources to help you embed flexible working in your organisation to be “future-ready”, visit CIPD’s flexible working content hub.
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The way we all communicate has changed drastically over the past year, and as much as we all want to get back to normal, it seems likely that this kind of digital communication will be with us for some time yet. This week, we focus on how digital communication will impact the future of work for years to come.
It will come as no surprise that an increased focus on office hygiene will play a massive role in the Future of Work. Here we take a look at the broader hygiene trends as well as the measures being taken to combat the spread of coronavirus.
The third focus article in our Future of Work series takes a look into sustainability, and how workspaces can make changes to reduce their impact on the environment. We offer a number of different tactics that can be taken, from small changes to more wide-ranging ones.
The second focus article in our future of work series takes a deeper look at the trends in employee health and wellbeing. This is an area that has seen growing attention over the past few years, and this very much looks set to continue into the future.
With today marking one year since the first coronavirus lockdown began in the UK, we are reflecting on the workplace trends and changes brought on by 2020 and how these are continuing to shape the future of work throughout 2021 and beyond.
As well as being intended to manage physical assets, coworking software was designed with flexibility in mind. Considering this, and the way that it has developed drastically over the past decade, Marc Navarro explores the benefits that other industries could gain from making use of coworking's automation technology.
The pandemic has vastly changed the way in which coworking spaces and their communities typically operate. As perceptions of what makes an ideal coworking space have shifted, adaption has never been more important. What can spaces do to adjust to this new normal?
The impact of COVID-19 and the social distancing measures that are being implemented until a vaccine or cure is discovered are having an impact on many businesses from two angles. On one hand, many are experiencing a lack of income due to closure and on the other, they are having to adjust their business models to adapt to the new transitional phase that is already happening in many countries.
With big cities becoming increasingly expensive and technology enabling people to work remotely with ease, many people see small and medium cities and towns as the solution to the work/life balance conundrum. It’s likely that, in the next decade, we’ll witness a migration of skilled professionals from big cities to medium-size one. Will Covid-19 accelerate this trend?
Although the benefits are numerous, our collective experience has also given visibility to the problems of telecommuting. Under lockdown, many of us are having to juggle work with childcare and homeschooling. Even under normal circumstances, maintaining any semblance of work-life balance can be a challenge. Of course, when looking at the pros and cons of working from home it’s important to remember that the experience is different for everyone, and it only really works if the employer has a comprehensive remote working policy in place. Is there a middle ground?