Inflexible flexible working policies

Inflexible flexible working policies

In March 2020 the majority of people had to switch to working from home overnight, for many this was the first time they had experienced this and after the initial teething problems of IT set up and converting spare bedrooms into home offices, people settled into this new way of working and for many, they thrived. No long battling the morning commute, spending a fortune on fuel and posh coffees and now able to manage the overspilling laundry basket in between emails and online meetings.

Whilst for many the world has returned to what it was pre-pandemic, the desire to have flexibility in our working lives remains.

Before March 2020 68% of people never worked from home, now 57% of employees prefer this way of working and some would even take a pay cut to be able to do just that. 

People know what they want, and flexibility is high on this list. Work-life balance is more important than ever, and flexible working enables people to feel that they’re seen as people, people with commitments, hobbies, and lives outside of the workplace, it gives them the ability to have the work-life balance that they crave and also that they were able to have during the pandemic.

We are also seeing a lot of interest in the four-day working week and for those who have trialed this it has been received positively, therefore this is a trend that we will see more of because this supports people's need for work-life balance. Research has also shown that people working a four-day week have improved productivity and wellbeing, this is another example of the flexibility being brought into the workplace.

The impact of not addressing people's need for flexibility is significant, 50% of employees in the UK, Netherlands and Germany do not have a good hybrid work strategy in place, that fits them and their need for work-life balance, inflexible working conditions and or a lack of flexibility within the workplace are driving people to leave organisations. 

The need for flexible working is not going away, people have changed since March 2020, and these changes are here to stay. It is unlikely that we will see a return to a full working week in the office, we are seeing an increase in the need for flexibility around work, an increase in hybrid working. People being able to pick and choose their working hours are becoming normal expectations, so the key challenges business are facing is how they meet these new expectations.

A starting point is to understand the difference between remote working, hybrid working and flexible working, as an employer, you need to be able to define this and what this looks like for you and your team. People will want to understand the expectation and ideally for these to meet their needs.  If employers are able to do this, they are more likely to have an engaged workforce and we all understand the importance of having an engaged workforce (a more motivated and productive team).  Employees value individual flexibility more than a broad hybrid approach and employers need to remember that one size doesn’t fit all.  Ideally, you need people to be able to choose where they work from, within some structure but a structure that allows independence and autonomy and real flexibility. It will take some planning and consideration, but it is not unachievable.

To ensure flexible working is successful employers need to:

  • set expectations
  • manage productivity
  • have good communication
  • build a culture of trust

Flexible working policies also need to consider inclusion and belonging, consider all your people and remember their needs will differ, what’s right for one is not always right for all.  Look at your employee personas and the different employee lenses, how are you going to ensure you are meeting everybody’s needs? A great starting place is to ask them what their needs are, if you can meet these, great, if not, let them know why and see if there is a compromise.

If employers are not sure where to start, look at the data, use feedback from surveys, stay and exit interviews. What are your people saying? Remember you won't be able to change everything overnight, these things take time. Communicate with your people, create clear policies on what flexible working looks like in your company and how this will be managed, but remember, real flexibility is not set within a rigid structure


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