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Flipping work philosophies: Support and discussions for the new flexible working environment

The concept of flexible work is the buzzword of the post-pandemic.  Employers, through obligation or recognition of a good idea, have embraced flexible work philosophies as they move forward.  This article will provide critical touchpoints regarding why flexible work is so attractive right now in the labor market.  The old concept of 9 to 5 work is superseded.  We are entering a new era where the rules are grey. 

What is flexible working? 

There are many definitions that describe flexible working.  It is about providing flexible options for how long, where, and when employees work.  It offers legal perspectives on how it can be implemented, both through direct and indirect means.  It can include:

  • Part-time hours instead of full-time 
  • Remote work, such as working directly from home instead of the office.  It is often called mobile or telework, 
  • Job sharing, where two or more employees share the responsibility for a job between them 
  • Term-time work.  Can be called commission work, with a target task and no established hours 
  • Flextime, allowing employees to choose when to begin and end work.
  • Compressed hours, which involves the reallocation of work into fewer and longer blocks 
  • Annual hours, or total number of hours worked over a given year 
  • Sabbaticals or career breaks, of up to five years 
  • Zero-hours contracts, with no guarantee of a minimum number of hours so they can be called on as required and paid only for the hours they work 

Flexible working arrangements can be formal or informal.  For example, work from home arrangements may be considered informal, and loosely arranged with HR managers. It may be more suitable for knowledge work and clearly defined tasks. Manufacturing jobs can also provide benefits when it comes to start end times and shift definitions. 

While flexible work options are on the rise, the number of quality jobs and employers that offer flexible job benefits is limited.  It will continue to rise, based on new generational demands, but how fast is questionable.  UK estimates of employees on flexible work is about 50/50, with 80 percent wanting it. The threat of fewer hours for those paid per hour is a fear with some employees, and negative implications.  Worker anxiety is more reflected with women than men, with true equality concerns.

Positive implications for flexible working 

Despite the fears, flexible working has many positive benefits. Employees who choose remote work can avoid lengthy commutes and fewer distractions than in an office environment. But it can result in employees overworking and feeling isolated.  

Direct and indirect business benefits for flexible working include: 

  • Savings on office space, and allowing remote working and “hoteling” in former office areas. Office space is often an expensive company expenditure.  The savings in office-owned space is incredible. 
  • More opportunities to serve clients on a 24/7 basis.  
  • Improved job satisfaction and commitment.
  • Reduction in absence rates, disabilities, and long-term health conditions. 
  • Better work-life balance.  

Potential issues with flexible working 

As great as the concept of flexible working might be, employers have a fair share of issues to overcome.  These include:

  • Operational pressures and client requirements. 
  • Management old-fashioned attitudes and lack of support, with the need to gain manager buy-In. 
  • Impact of aligning other employee's flexible working schedules. 
  • Learning to measure performance by accomplishments rather than hours. 
  • Establishing a process with defined roles and responsibilities. 
  • Create and design jobs that suit a flexible pattern. 

Foundations of support for remote and telework

Certain processes must be established to support flexible working, especially work from home.  They include: 

  • Adequate Resources.  These resources Include laptops with Internet connections, mobile phones, printers, and even office furniture.  Technology keeps advancing, which makes telework Issues more and more obsolete.  Internet response times of 10gb a second will soon be commonplace.  This Is 10 times the current response time.   This Is especially useful for start-ups.  
  • Education and ability to demonstrate time management skills and the ability to work without close supervision. 
  • The rise of the gig economy In the UK also plays a role. This will allow businesses to embrace free-lancers without providing office space.  According to the IPSE, 4.8 million people are self-employed in the UK, and freelancers contributed to £119 billion to the economy in 2016.
  • Ability to communicate with other staff on a regular basis. 
  • Short-term skill gaps are best supported by free-lancers.  Businesses can plan for temporary positions more easily If the workforce Is available. 
  • On-task oriented work, where the task or job defines the work. 
  • Demonstrate, through real data, productivity Improvements.  Fortunately, there are many studies that support flexible working with Increased efficiency.   Three out of four workers even Indicate their productivity has dramatically Increased.   Their hours on the job has gone up as much as 30 percent.
  • Employee rights, where remote workers are treated equally with office staff and have access to the same resources.   

Employees need to be able to demonstrate time management skills, the ability to work without close supervision, self-motivation, and flexibility.

  • Trust, which becomes more important than exerting control.  Some managers may have issues with this primary barrier. 
  • Supporting hybrid work options, which are a weekly combination of office and remote options, sometimes called "hoteling," when the employee Is In the office.

How we currently view the labor market will change a lot in the next decade.  It is predicted that the workplace will look much different moving forward.  This includes the acceptance of flexible working.  Are you prepared for this change?  It is coming fast.  One day, people will look back and laugh at the old 9 to 5 life. Isn’t it time to prepare for this?

Fatmir Hyseni, head of digital, redwigwam (opens in new tab)

 Fatmir Hyseni is Head of Digital at redwigwam (opens in new tab) - UK's largest platform for flexible staff, and an award-winning chartered marketer with over a decade of delivering marketing strategies.