With a huge talent gap emerging in many sectors, businesses have been looking to recruit new workers, as well as retain their current staff – with flexible working leading the way in most attractive perks in recent years. 78% of workers claim flexible working has given them a better work-life balance, indicating these arrangements could hold the key to employee satisfaction.
However, the trend isn’t yet widespread, with 46% of workers not yet being offered flexible working arrangements in their current roles. The UK government has introduced legislation to help combat this, which will give employees the right to request flexible working arrangements from their first day of employment.
We asked experts at leading tech companies for their thoughts:
The essentiality of flexible working
Chris Moore, President at Veeva Europe, emphasises the necessity of implementing flexible working: “This change to worker rights will further cement the importance of putting employee choice first. Companies will soon realise that productivity comes from employees deciding where they work best on any given day – Veeva believes that ‘Work Anywhere’ approaches will quickly become the norm and has enacted this as a corporate policy since before the pandemic.
“People want to be productive for themselves, their teams, and their customers. We need to trust and empower them to decide how best to make that happen. It’s important for companies to enact durable policies that provide stability and clarity and are not constantly changing.”
Similarly, Pam Maynard, CEO at Avanade, comments: “For me personally, the future of work is rooted in flexibility and choice, and this should be a right. Since the pandemic, the topic of how to give people diverse work options so they can live full lives, professionally and personally, has dominated boardroom conversations.
“For the businesses that do not grasp flexibility with both hands and give it to workers from day one, I fear they will be victims to the future expectations from workers and will ultimately lose out, both in the quest for talent but also by lacking the innovation and creativity that comes from nurtured minds.”
Spencer Pitts, End User Computing Chief Technology at VMWare, adds: “Research recently commissioned by VMware underpins this reality, with the overwhelming majority (82%) of employees with flexible working policies reporting higher job satisfaction alongside increased morale (53%), creativity (53%) and collaboration (52%). Despite this, two thirds (66%) of employers have concerns about how hybrid work will impact innovation within their organisation.
“Ultimately, if employers want to keep pace, and ensure they are hiring and retaining the top talent in their fields, they need to recognise the value in implementing hybrid working policies. This means investing in their digital culture, and in solutions that can help to maximise innovation and collaboration between employees, from anywhere.”
Ensuring practical success
Nicole Downing, CEO at Ricoh Europe, agrees flexible working won’t work without investment in technology: “Businesses without a flexible work offering can no longer stay competitive. Cementing the right to request flexible working from day one goes a long way to normalise and establish working patterns that suit both company and employee.
“But to make hybrid work a true success, businesses will also need to have a robust future-proof strategy in place and invest in the right technology for hybrid work. Using technology to create the right workplace experience is vital to attracting and retaining the best people in a market where digital-savvy talent is in such high demand.”
Meanwhile, Callum Adamson, CEO and Founder at Distributed, advocates for a bigger focus on remote working: “More concrete steps towards increasing flexible working for UK employees are welcome. But the fact is that the new legislation allows for only a limited number of days away from the office, in other words, ‘hybrid working’. The future lies in remote working.
“Forcing employees to work from one centralised location, even for two days a week, leads to proximity bias. By offering flexible working, businesses restrict themselves to only being able to select from a small pool of candidates that are able to commute or can afford to travel to a central office space. But in choosing to become remote, businesses can gain greater access to global talent and improve employee productivity.”
The future will be automated
Mark Gray, UK and Ireland Country Manager at Universal Robots, argues automation will be key to helping manual workers access new opportunities for more flexible hours: “We must make sure that traditionally blue-collar workers – particularly in manufacturing, which accounts for 10% of our economy – do not get left behind in conversations around employee wellbeing and work-life balance.
“While the industry is facing skills and labour gaps, a reduction in working hours may currently seem impossible. By embracing automation, manufacturers may well find more solutions to their problems than expected. In theory, this would reduce time spent at work and even get rid of the night shift which is known to have adverse effects on employees’ health. In turn, this could allow for more flexible work patterns for blue-collar workers, with productivity shortfalls offset by automation.”
Finally, John Kelleher, Area Vice President UK&I at UiPath, agrees automation will help increase employee satisfaction. As he points out, “new legislation entitling all UK employees to request flexible working from day one of their jobs is recognition from the UK government of a need to act on the workplace mental health crisis.
“It’s abundantly clear employees who have to perform mundane, repetitive tasks daily are experiencing disillusion in their current roles and feel stifled creatively. Our survey also discovered that 52% of workers find themselves considering other job opportunities when doing repetitive tasks compared to creative ones.
“Until employees are given access to flexible work opportunities – something which automation can assist with, for example by enabling onboarding for remote employees – organisations continue to risk losing their best talent.”
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