The workplace has changed dramatically, in part because advances in technology have enabled remote and flexible working, but not all employers can see the benefits.
Work to live, or live to work – whichever way round you see it, employees still have lives to lead alongside their jobs.
Ultimately, and sadly for Dolly Parton, working 9-5 simply isn’t the theme tune to many workers’ lives anymore, as today’s workforce increasingly opts for flexibility and a better work life balance.
The BBC recently reported that only 6% of the UK workforce work the traditional 9am to 5pm hours. According to a recent YouGov survey, almost half of people work flexibly with arrangements, such as job sharing or compressed hours, allowing them to juggle other commitments.
Recent research from Sage People found the same - 81% of 3,500 employees we polled also placed importance on flexible working. They want to be trusted to manage when, where and how they work. As a result, they’re more empowered and productive in the work that they do.
Thanks to technology, employees can now collaborate with colleagues across the globe and juggle multiple commitments more seamlessly. At the same time, employees are ‘always on’, work longer hours, and sometimes weekends too.
Why flexible working is the Future of Work -
As a result, offering flexible working is vital. Here are four reasons why businesses can benefit from embracing it.
1. It encourages employee ownership
Being trusted to manage their own time is important to employees. In fact, 66% of workers in our survey said they just want to feel valued in their jobs. Empowering them to have the autonomy to work in the way that’s best for them is just one way to do this.
The better an employee’s experience at work, and the more empowered and valued they feel, the more productive they can be, and the more the business benefits. A staggering 92% of workers we spoke to said that this was the case.
"Showing employees you trust them to work in the way that’s best for them, through programmes such as flexible working, is going to get top talent through the door".
2. It means you can attract and retain top talent
Eighty percent of HR leaders can’t get top talent through the door. The global skills shortage means it’s a job seeker’s market. As a result, top talent can demand more from their employer.
People-orientated companies know this and put their employees’ needs before unnecessary processes and traditional ways of working; as a result reaping the rewards in engagement and loyalty.
Our research also found employees don’t want quirky benefits like company days out. Instead simple things like showing employees you trust them to work in the way that’s best for them, through programmes such as flexible working, is going to get top talent through the door.
3. It shows you value workers’ wellbeing
Thirty-nine percent of respondents said they believed HR and People teams could do more to improve wellness at work.
Working flexibly has all kinds of benefits in this way. Firstly, if employees are able to leave work earlier if they have a doctor’s appointment or start an hour later if they are up late working on a project the night before, then this is going to have a direct impact on their wellbeing.
Secondly, by simply demonstrating to employees you value the work they do, and not what hours they do it in, employees can benefit from better mental wellbeing by feeling secure and trusted in their roles.
4. It boosts employee productivity
Financial remuneration is no longer the sole driving force of productivity. HSBC found nine in ten employees consider flexible working to be the largest motivator to their productivity.
All economic indicators suggest that productivity in the UK is taking a dip, but the hours we work are creeping up. We work an average of 68 days more each year than contracted to and as a result, employees are becoming less efficient as they feel overworked, stressed and exhausted. This also creates costly mistakes that could have long-term negative effects.
"Financial remuneration is no longer the sole driving force of productivity. HSBC found nine in ten employees consider flexible working to be the largest motivator to their productivity".
Furthermore, over a third of employees we polled also admitted they’re productive for less than 30 hours a week. That’s a whole day each week that they’re in work, but not working (if they’re full time).
It’s time for a new approach when it comes to the hours that employees work if we’re going to dramatically change this shift towards lower productivity levels.
With the UK’s productivity gap widening, businesses need to make sure they are getting best out of their employees.
Creating a culture where people don’t feel they have to be seen to be putting in long hours to progress up the career ladder can create a happier, more engaged and more efficient employee.
Ultimately, why shouldn’t employees work from 7am and finish earlier if they’re more productive in the mornings, or have international calls first thing? Why should parents have to miss the school run just to be seen in the office, when they may work long evenings too?
The way we work has changed – so too must employers’ expectations of what hours their employees work to be productive.
About the author
Perry Timms is the Founder & Chief Energy Officer of PTHR, with 30+ yrs experience in people, learning, technology, organisation change & transformation. His personal mission is to see more people flourish through their work, and help shift organizations as a force for societal good (not just profit machines). PTHR's mission is defined as "Better Business for a Better World". In October 2017, his first book, Transformational HR - was published by Kogan Page and the Energized Workplace published in August 2020. He was an extremely proud new entrant to the list of HR Most Influential Thinkers for 2017 and again in 2018 + 2019 (in the top 10 both years).