Friday 19th November 2021
Defining flexible working for 2022 and beyond

By now, you’ve probably had to give some thought to flexible working, and how it will operate across your business in the long-term.

Amid the initial rush of different working models as organizations bring their employees back into the office, the business world is in a bit of a ‘Wild West’ phase, where no clear and consistent norm is emerging. This makes it very difficult to cut through all the hype and media attention around flexible working, and determine the best way to proceed in the months and years ahead.

To give you some much-needed clarity, this blog serves to give you a solid foundation on what flexible working really means in 2022 and beyond. We’ll take a look at four guiding principles to bear in mind as you home in on a flexible working model that makes sense for your business needs, and the expectations of your workforce.

1. Employees hold all the cards

As a senior manager within your organization, you may assume that the decisions about what flexible working looks like are largely down to you, right? Erm… wrong.

The world of work has perhaps never been so much of an employees’ market. Not only have millions of people used the pandemic to re-evaluate their lives and prioritize their work/life balance, but the ability to work from home has broken down huge geographical barriers to who works for whom.

Providing flexible work options is now an absolute must if you want to keep hold of your best employees, and recruit similarly talented individuals. Owl Labs research has found that companies that offer optional remote work have 25% lower employee turnover than those that don’t.

If you won’t offer employees the working arrangements they want – they’ll go and work for someone else that will.

2. One size does not fit all

Of course, delivering on those employee demands isn’t as simple as drawing up a flexible working policy and saying: “OK everyone, here you go, this is what we’re all doing from Monday.” In fact, such a rigid approach will probably do more harm than good.

That’s because every employee has different motivations, different remote working environments and different working needs. For example, someone who lives in a big house with a dedicated home office room is probably more likely to enjoy working from home and coming into the office as required every now and then. On the other hand, someone in a house or apartment share, working off a kitchen table with other people who are remote-working at the same time will need access to the office as a sanctuary where they can focus in peace and quiet.

The key is to think less about flexibility and more about choice: giving individual employees the freedom to work from the office or from home whenever they want (within reasonable business and operational constraints).

3. Time for a rethink

Making changes doesn’t have to stop at when and where people work – nor should it. This fundamental shift in the world of work opens up huge opportunities for organizations to take a broader view of their office environments and what they’re used for, and revise their size and structure accordingly.

This can be thought of in two ways. The first is financial: with fewer employees in the office each day, employers can cut back on office space and make significant savings, not only in rental but also in overheads like temperature control, lighting, cleaning and IT infrastructure. The second is sustainability: reduced commuting and smaller offices can contribute to a major reduction in the carbon footprint of a business, therefore substantially improving the organization’s green credentials.

4. Technology drives simplicity

All this flexibility can quickly become overly complicated and too difficult to manage if it isn’t implemented properly. With different people working in different places and at different times, collaboration and smooth business operation can become impossible if employees can’t easily see who is working where and when.

It’s essential that you consider the technologies that can be put in place to make flexible working as efficient, transparent and user-friendly as possible. This is where workspace booking solutions, where employees can search and book office workspaces in advance, and check co-workers’ schedules to organize collaboration, really make the difference.

Research report: Attitudes to Hybrid Working.

Attitudes to Hybrid Working Report

The impact of hybrid work on employees and employers.

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