It is no secret that the pandemic provided a paradigm shift in thinking regarding an in-office workforce. This movement has been reflected in the new Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill that is awaiting royal assent. This would allow employees more opportunities to request flexible work arrangements as well as making the request process more efficient.
Currently, 58% of UK businesses offer flexible working, demonstrating an increase of 566% in only seven years! There are various visible and invisible barriers to work that flexible work can overcome, including the need to live in high-cost accommodations (which has been exemplified in London’s renting crisis), reduced costs of childcare and reduce commuting times/expenses. With the labour shortages in the economy causing a tightening of the labour market, making work more flexible may well be a positive change for the economy as a whole.
On the surface, it seems that the shift to a flexible work pattern is a positive step for both employees and leaders. However, there is an ever-growing list of firms that have requested employees to stay in the office. So, this begs the question, why do employers want people to return to the office? Recent studies justify many leaders’ call for employees to return to the office as productivity shrinks by 18%. With the arrival of consistently high inflation, cash has been sucked out of the economy and many organisations are struggling for profit and are conserving cash. This has meant a rapid switch in focus from revenue and growth to cost and efficiency, resulting in cost-cutting and layoffs which has created an even greater emphasis on productivity. Additionally, casual collaboration and communication have experienced a significant fall as shown by 62,000 communication records from Microsoft employees which display professional networks becoming inactive and, in some cases, isolated. This has led to organisations seeing in-office workplaces as a place to strive for greater interactions, enhanced collaboration and improved culture development, in this somewhat isolated working world.
These opposing views/needs have subsequently caused tensions to rise. With employees initiating walkouts and industrial action regularly taking place, it is prevalent that more guidance from the government is required to allow employers and employees to gauge the new standards for work to reach a mutually beneficial outcome.
Although there is existing legislation allowing forms of flexible work in certain circumstances it has become apparent that there were overdue updates in this new world of work. The existing legislation was initially brought into place in 2003 to allow parents of young or disabled children a right to request flexible working arrangements. This legislation was amended in 2014 to expand the right to request flexible work arrangements for all employees.
The Flexible Working Bill would give employees the right to make two flexible working requests in a year. Additionally, it also reduces the decision period of employers to only two months and relinquishes the need for employees to explain in the request what effect the change would have on the employer and how they might deal with it. This is highly significant as employees will benefit from the added flexibility of an additional request, a shorter response time will make the process more efficient for employers and employees which will prevent avoidable resignations from unsatisfied employees.
This bill provides hope that the debate between employees and employers will be settled and that a mutually agreeable solution is in sight. 66% of employees (without a flexible working arrangement) think it is likely that their employer would agree to them working flexibly, it is clear that the rise of flexible work will continue.
The shift towards flexible work patterns has gained significant momentum, driven by the recognition of its benefits for both employees and employers. So, with all the benefits of flexible working out in the open, how do companies maximise their people’s potential? Is it productivity, engagement, trust, any other business metric, or all of the above that is of utmost importance? Maximising human potential is the primary goal of any organisation and the best-known way to do this effectively is through the vehicle of an organisation’s culture. Being intentional in the definition and communication of your company culture is the key to flexible work, and the companies that do this best will be the winners in the new working world.
In conclusion, managing culture with intentionality is central to ensuring that high levels of trust and engagement are sustained in a world of flexible work. By focusing on “how” work gets done instead of “where” work happens, organisations will establish high employee retention and increased levels of productivity, while reducing cash flow concerns.
To build a strong and aligned culture, in a flexible workplace, it is critical to have the ability to measure and manage it. Culture15 helps define, diagnose and track your culture, from anywhere. If you would like to learn more about how to build a strong culture in the new flexible workplace, check out our latest eBook on the topic.
Culture15 is your complete toolkit for tracking culture change. CEOs and Exec Teams at world-leading organisations use Culture15 analytics to ensure success by aligning their culture with what they need to execute their strategy. If you’d like to find out how to define the culture and values you need, diagnose the culture you have and close the gap, talk to our team.