06 Sep What is The Future of Work?
It’s no surprise that prior to the not-so-small matter of a virus named Covid hitting the globe in 2020, working from home was the exception not the rule.
Fast forward to the post-covid (ish) world of 2022 and a lot has changed. In fact, 84% of workers who had to work from home due to the pandemic still plan to work a hybrid model, and 1 in 5 Brits want to work remotely full time. That’s a huge proportion of the workforce wanting flexibility from their employers.
In the past we’ve thought that there were 3 working solutions;
- Office only
- Remote first
However there are now multiple variations on each model and we’re noticing more often than not that expectations from clients and candidates differ substantially in terms of each party’s understanding of what these working solutions actually mean – what a client says isn’t always translated by the candidate in the same way!
This means that working pattern negotiations are getting really interesting!
Are you forward-thinking or dino-dusting?
Some forward-thinking businesses have led with a remote-first or even remote-only strategy, however there may still be caveats such as being available to travel to the office a certain number of times per month/year for essential meetings/networking etc.
This solution is highly sought after – in fact the term “remote jobs” has been reportedly searched for over 18,000 times per month in the UK on Google – a 410% increase over the last 5 years – and online job adverts for remote work have increased by 307%.
‘Digital nomads’ are on the rise and some exceptional candidates are negotiating the ability to work from wherever they like. In fact, recently one of our placements did just that and got the right to work wherever he wanted in the world for long periods of time!
There are, of course, some roles that cannot be done from home and the office should remain a positive environment in which to work – for the 1 in 5 people who struggle with loneliness when working from home, being office based can provide a safe and positive place for them to do their job. Additionally, 3 in 10 Brits find it difficult to separate their home and work life so being at least partially office based allows them to fully switch off at the end of the day.
However, expecting people who’ve been successfully working remotely to come back to the office full-time will likely lead to a shift in employee engagement – watch your top talent jump ship and wait for the resignations to roll in!
If you want your employees to be based in the office the majority of the time, make sure you have a great reason – but most importantly, be open to some level of flex!
Working models we’re seeing
There are any number of hybrid working options that we’re seeing pop up;
- 2 days in the office and 3 at home – with 30% of the UK workforce already working remotely at least one day a week, 2 gives enough time for teams to collaborate and share whilst getting work done quietly at home.
- ‘Book-ending’ – with Monday and Friday being an ‘office day’ and midweek being employees’ choice.
- Total employee choice – each individual chooses whichever approach works best for them – this takes into account multiple needs of the workforce facilitating highly trusting working environments, but trickier collaboration points.
- Set office day/s – individual teams set a day\s for team members to be in the the office for meetings etc with the rest of the week being individual choice. This allows each team to do what works best for them (vs a top-down approach from leadership).
- Core working hours – every employee is expected to work between 10am and 2pm but outside of that is flexible.
- Condensed working hours (e.g. 4 days per week) – this has worked really well for a number of our clients, giving employees the sense of more work/life balance. In Scandinavia, 30 hour weeks are standard with Norway being the second most productive country in the world. To add to that, British Telecom also reported a 30% increase in productivity for its flexible workers (Unison)
- 100% Remote – a very high proportion of employees are looking to work from home as often as they wish – and from wherever they wish.
- On-site – purely office based with little flexibility. Companies requiring their staff to be in the office every day will tempt very few candidates (if any) to apply for open roles and may lose existing staff.
The amount of work expands to fill the time available for its completion — meaning that if you give yourself a week to complete a two-hour task, then (psychologically speaking) the task will increase in complexity and become more daunting to fill that week.
How to ensure your working model is a success
- Set up collaborative & creative workspaces to ensure that DE&I are at the centre of the working strategy – understanding neurodiversity and personality insights means the addition of quiet zones for getting work done and collaboration spaces for networking are seeing great results.
- Introduce clear ‘boundary setting’ to improve wellbeing – setting focus time and lunch breaks in diaries allows for the separation of work/rest/home and can build trust between employees and the business.
- Put in place an action/outcome model vs hours worked – allows employees greater flexibility whilst ensuring they remain fully accountable.
Bridging the UK gender gap in work has the potential to create an extra £150 billion on top of business-as-usual GDP forecasts in 2025.
Happy employees are good for business
- Financial – organisations can save a lot of money on facilities costs by having their people WFH – all whilst reducing their carbon footprint and consolidating office space requirements.
- Competitive Edge – companies with diverse talent pipelines and flexible work options outperform their rivals.
- L&D – employees can manage their learning & development through just-in-time self-managed resources e.g. Lucy Adams EACH model
- Results – promotions should become results based, not relationship based – schmoozing the boss at the water-cooler will no longer give you a head start vs someone who isn’t office based.
- Customer Service – flexible working hours means you can provide better out of hours support to your customers.
- Employee Retention – hiring is an expensive business and employees who work flexibly have higher job satisfaction resulting in less staff turnover. According to the CIPD ‘higher levels of engagement, experienced by working flexibly, can reduce staff turnover by 87%’.
- Reduced Sickness – Unison reports that sickness reduces from 12% to 2% amongst those that worked flexibly – you can’t argue with that!
the traditional workplace is dead. New ways of working, better ways of working, can offer major economic returns and lead to greater performance and greater productivity. It's about being more flexible in terms of working time, working location and the pattern of working so that people can work anywhere, anytime and anyhow.
One size does not fit all – diversity and inclusion should be at the core of an organisation’s management strategy – the work environment should work for EVERY employee, including those who are just starting out in their career (and may benefit from being office based), new to a role, introvert/extrovert, neurodivergent, carer etc.
Some individuals get their best work done at home whilst the opposite is also true – for many the office is distracting making it impossible to get stuff done, yet for others the social side and human contact the office brings is energising. Get to know what your employees need!
Employees should own their own performance and career – allow them to work where and how they do their best work – and involve them in the decision making, after all they’re adults – let them behave as such!
People are unique and have different ways of working – in order to get the best out of all your employees, facilitate your working solutions to make room for both those who may find the office exhausting as well as those for which if fuels their fire!
People are choosing to work for companies who treat them with respect and trust – and will, without question, leave those that do not.
If you’re hiring, tell potential candidates that you’re open to flexible working – with so many applicants not entering processes without remote or at least hybrid working available, make sure what you’re explicitly including what you’re offering in your job ads!
We could see the death of the dinosaurs as remote-first companies replace office-first companies – going back to the old way would reduce trust and employees will leave. According to the CIPD, 87% of workers want to work flexibly, increasing to 92% for the younger generation.
Be clear on what you actually mean by hybrid-working to avoid conflict – what companies think is hybrid is very different to what employees believe it to be. For businesses it seems to be about telling workers when to be in the office/home, but for employees they see it as the ability to work wherever and whenever they want. Clarity will remove conflict on both sides.
The office could become a collaborative space rather than a workspace – being in the office will be more about building relationships, having discussions and setting objectives, whereas home will be where the work gets done.
Openly discuss ways of working so every person understands what is expected of them – having agreed boundaries on things such as responding to out of hours emails, or the feeling of always needing to be ‘on’, will facilitate cultural and psychological safety.
Retention of your best employees should be high on your list of priorities – by giving your employees choice you will prevent them from feeling like they need to give up their careers to deal with what life may throw at them, such as caring for a poorly child or elderly relative; dealing with mental health issues or even menopausal symptoms etc In turn, they’ll reward you with loyalty and commitment.
Maintain the ability to weed out those who are not performing – by changing to an output first strategy, seeing what employees are doing becomes easier. It’s less about how many hours they sit in front on a screen, and much more about what they’re achieving.
As someone who grew up with a background of mass unemployment, it can seem a little bewildering that the power has swung so far in favour of the employee. There have now been several generations who have never seemingly been worried by the prospect of not having a job. This may be about to change…but in the meantime flexibility and leadership will be at a premium when hiring and optimising valuable talent.
Hannington Tame & Beringer Tame internal data
Is hybrid working here to stay? Statista
Remote working statistics UK StandoutCV