Over the last two years, we have produced several market reports that examine the UK’s workplace culture, ways in which employers adapted during the pandemic to improve staff wellbeing, and what employees’ expectations of the workplace will likely be post-pandemic. Hindsight truly is a wonderful thing and as we tread into the new year, we release our most recent research findings, How the World of Work Really Changed in 2021.
One finding that really stands out for us is the stark number of employers who still, at this critical time, risking losing existing or new talent. While this research was carried out prior to new workplace restrictions due to the Omicron variant, the findings remain concerning – especially as flexibility isn’t exclusive to the physical workplace.
Our previous report indicated that the majority of UK staff believed homeworking should become commonplace for the foreseeable future. A significant 68.9 per cent of respondents held the belief that in the future, employers should be offering a hybrid mix of office and home working. Of these respondents, 35 per cent showed a preference for home working most (80 per cent) of the time.
Therefore, our latest research findings show that still, one in five employees (19 per cent) still do not have work flexibility. While it’s promising that the majority (81 per cent) do have the flexibility they want, no doubt a catalyst for improved work/life balances and improved staff wellbeing, it seems naive that one in five employers are yet to offer a certain degree of flexibility which has become a ‘must have’ rather than a ‘nice to have’.
Last month, we wrote on The Great Resignation, seeing surveys show 69 per cent of employees confident about upping and moving to a new role in the next few months. This mass movement of talent wouldn’t be as much of a concern if it wasn’t paired with a stark skill and talent shortage.
‘Surely,’ says our Managing Director, Chris Goulding, ‘employers should be pulling out all the stops to attract and retain talent?’
The appetite of employees and candidates for flexibility has grown, moving it from an appetite to an expectation. But as ‘flexibility’ is an umbrella term for an array of things, we wonder if the concept needs to be moved along from the clichéd and inaccurate ‘single mother who can’t come into the office’ arc. So how can employers widen their scope of flexibility, and simultaneously retain and attract talent?
The eight degrees of flexibility
The UK Government’s official website outlines eight different ways of working flexibly, beyond physical location highlighted by the pandemic. Flexibility also encompasses working hours, which can work in favour of productivity.
Compressed hours, which comprises of working full-time hours over fewer days, has been successfully trialled by many countries – most recently, Spain. One might recognise this as the ‘four-day working week’ model. This level of flexibility can allow a member of staff to take on pressing personal duties without compromising time, productivity, or production.
In the same vein, flexitime is where employees have an open window of working hours, but work certain ‘core hours’. For example, many employers offer a 7am-7pm working window, as long as the core 10am-3pm is worked.
Annualised hours takes a long-term approach where employees work a certain number of hours over the year but have some flexibility about when these hours are used. Both options allow staff to work to their full capacity, while offering a degree of flexibility they need. Physical flexibility can be seen as offering homeworking or hybrid models, but also hotdesking.
When it comes to flexible workplaces, it’s important that employees’ voices are heard. Research has continuously shown that 92 per cent of talent are putting flexibility as a top priority in looking for a new role.
In the market we currently find ourselves, it’s vital that employers are firstly aware of the varying levels of flexibility that are available and aware of the growing trends and demands of their staff and candidates. Failure to do so will see them struggle to retain and attract their best talent and that in turn could detrimentally impact their ability to scale their organisations.