In recent months we’ve seen our routines turned on their head, with many of us being forced to substitute the daily commute with the laborious saunter over to our home office. Does this drastic shift indicate a longer lasting trend in how we work, and will flexible working be welcomed across the board? We very much hope so and according to our 2020 flexible working survey nearly three quarters (73%) of UK employees feel that they would be more productive if they could spend time working flexibly.
So why do people feel they would be more productive working flexibly? A reason many of us will be familiar with, the darned daily commute. Jam packed trains, crowds of people, awkward eye contact, the stress of running late, missing a train or factors out of your control can hinder your mood when you step into the office. Prior to lockdown 59 per cent of workers admitted they arrived at work stressed due to their commute at least once a week, with more than 6 in 10 (63%) having a commute of over 30 minutes. On top of this 40 per cent of decision-makers said the biggest benefit experienced during lockdown was being more productive due to the absence of their commutes.
The freedom to get ready and start work at your own pace is a contributing factor to employee wellbeing and productivity and one of the upsides of working from home.
Companies can no longer neglect the need to offer flexible working if they’re hoping to attract the best young talent. Older generations have less of a need for flexible working, 65 per cent of over-45s would look for more flexibility as part of a new job, and 57 per cent of over 55’s feel flexible working options are important to their employment needs. This in no way indicates that it isn’t important to the older generation, just less of a necessity when compared to the younger generation.
One of the biggest reasons for the reluctance to embrace flexible working is the impact it would have on communications, with 45 per cent of decision makers believe that this would be a key issue. What we’ve seen in lockdown is more companies investing in remote working tools, such as conference calls and video calls. Although, with the increased usage and reliance on technology, there has inevitably been more issues with technology. This stresses the importance in investing in high quality and reliable tech (hint, like ours). Alongside offering flexible working, investing in the latest software is key for millennials.
One of our greatest strengths is the willingness and ability to adapt. Many workers are now accustomed to working flexibly and enjoy the many perks that come with it.
When lockdown began, it left many businesses scrambling to accommodate remote working, but now 72 per cent of decision makers now believe their business can adequately support their staff when working remotely. Lockdown has been an opportunity for business leaders to implement new processes, communication tools and software to future proof their business.
What does this all mean in a post lockdown world? It means it’s going to be tougher to get employees to commit to the traditional 9-5 work schedule, commutes, and all when they’ve had a taste of flexible working. Initial concerns around flexible working had lack of productivity at the forefront. Now that it’s become a reality, that concern has in large part been proven wrong. Workers are now aware that they can still be productive, if not more so when they’re allowed to work flexibly.
Flexible working is a great way to create a happier workforce. A survey of 1,564 UK employees found that a third listed flexible working as one of the biggest source of happiness, only falling short to salary. If flexible working is linked to employee happiness, how does happiness aid productivity? A meta-analysis (exciting stuff) of 339 independent studies found that higher employee wellbeing is associated with higher productivity and firm performance.
So how does flexible working help create a chirpier workforce? A lot of it can be put down to creating a better work life balance. By providing your employees with opportunities to look after their families, avoid the commute one day a week, allow them to come in an hour earlier and leave an hour earlier, you’re improving their mental well-being. They’re able to work when they feel most productive and this will lead to a happier, more trusting and less stressed company.
A report carried out by HSBC looked at the tech sector, the most productive in the UK, and found that nine-out-of-ten workers said flexible working motivates them to be more productive at work. A big grumble in the working world is that flexible working equals slacking. If you give people, the opportunity to work when they want then they simply won’t work. Although, what is largely ignored is that offering flexible working is ultimately a sign of trust. Trusting your staff will motivate them to get the job done, creating increased morale and hopefully increased revenue.
So now we know that flexible working increases productivity, it’s a given that it will be embraced with open arms, right? We wish it were that simple. Prior to lockdown only 4 in 10 UK businesses offered flexible working, so it would be optimistic to expect this to completely change.
What we do expect to see in an increased pressure from employees requesting flexible working. Many people have experienced the benefits personally and seen their work-life balance and productivity improve, so why go back to your old way of working? This is a great opportunity for businesses to re-evaluate their flexible working culture and how you manage your employee wellbeing, priming them and your business for success. Part of growing as a business is adapting to changing attitudes and if this means an increase in productivity then why on earth not?