How the UK’s balancing ways of working support employee productivity
01st March 2022
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The office nine-to-five isn’t dead. Instead, it’s being joined by several other ways of working, born from the realisation that people can work productively when and where they choose — when trusted. Today, 85% of UK employees want some form of flexibility over the hours they work, and 76% prefer a level of location flexibility post-pandemic.
Diversifying ways of working is a matter of necessity more than anything else. If the lockdowns during the pandemic showed us anything, it’s that how we work needs to be structured in an agile and flexible way to ensure ongoing business resilience during uncertain times.
Many remote workers weren’t any less productive or efficient as people might have once believed. In fact, our recent research with the Centre for Business and Economics Research (Cebr) found that employers reported their employees were actually more productive during the pandemic – by an average of 3.4%.
As restrictions are steadily eased, and a return to the office is possible, new ways of working are likely to become a more permanent reality for many of us, including:
- Remote working
- Hybrid working
- Flexible working
- Dynamic working
We wanted to help people better understand these four types of working and some of the companies that are already taking advantage of them.
During lockdown many organisations empowered their employees to work from home, as per government guidance. What used to be a perk for some soon became a genuine alternative for allowing employees to do the task asked of them, without the associated commute.
It did require the right hardware and access to systems being put in place, but now, as restrictions ease, remote working allows people to continue working from home, coffee shops, libraries, customer offices, and any other location they find it best to work from.
For employers, this means removing limitations, like commute times to office locations and unlocking access to a wider pool of potential talent. For employees, it means landing a dream role that might once have been impossible without relocating.
Former Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, made headlines in 2021 when he announced that employees could work remotely “forever” if they wanted to. Dropbox, Shopify and Slack all now operate on a remote-first basis. And many smaller businesses chose not to renew their office leases during the pandemic, instead opting to move to a permanent remote-working structure.
Hybrid workers are employees who were previously office-based but now have some choice about where they work. This might look like three days in the office, two days working remotely, though it’ll vary as its focus is on having a flexible and healthy mix.
It’s currently the most preferred way of working in the UK. Hybrid working’s attractive because it balances people’s needs for both office-based and remote working.
For example, some young employees need invaluable face-to-face time with senior team members to guide their careers. Clive Watson, Chief Executive of City Pub Group, places a lot of emphasis on the importance of this exchange. “You can bring in flexibility to the office work-life… but every junior staff needs to go to someone in the office to help them with their roles, and they really can’t do that from home”.
For parents, it means being able to share childcare responsibilities across the week. As we move forward, it looks as if hybrid working will become even more popular – 38% of people say they would now prefer a mix of home and office working.
Traditional flexible working was used in relation to time rather than location. Simply put, flexible work allows employees to work at the times that best suit them. Recent research found that 25% of jobs advertised in December 2021 offered irregular working hours, up 19% since before the pandemic.
One company embracing flexible working is insurance giant Zurich. It initially introduced flexible working in 2019 across all roles to encourage more women to apply for senior positions. And it’s been a success – in the past 12 months, 23% of its new female hires have been part-time, up from 10% in 2019, and the number of applications from men and women has increased by more than 66% since the initiative started.
Looking to the future, it will be interesting to see the results of the ongoing four-day-working-week trial in the UK, as this may well shape how other companies choose to structure their own working hours.
The fourth way of working is a new definition that’s rapidly gaining in popularity and preference. Dynamic working combines the attributes of flexibility in both time and location. By giving employees the tools, permission and trust to work wherever and whenever they’ll be their most productive and efficient. It’s about outputs rather than hours.
In other words, employees are free set their own hours and choose how work can be done around life’s other commitments. Dynamic working gives employees a sense of feeling valued and trusted by their organisation. Barclays is an advocate of dynamic working and already has a number of glowing reports from its employees as testament to its success.
The evolution of work in 2022
As the past two years have shown, the diverse ways of working we now have at our fingertips are a positive shift – one born from necessity, which is steadily growing into a mainstay of our working lives. The beauty of these four types of work is that there’s no one-size-fits-all. Every employee has individual needs that align with their personality types – outlined by our Creating a dynamic workforce report.
Each way of working brings its own benefits and unlocks huge potential for UK employees to fit their work around their responsibilities, commitments and passions, while remaining productive at the same time. And technology plays a massive part in enabling these kinds of work, providing people with the reliable connectivity and security with which to fulfil their role properly.
The Great Resignation trend is another factor for decision-makers to consider this year when contemplating the ways of working they offer employees. Attracting and retaining talent is a priority and offering flexible and dynamic working solutions will soon be a prerequisite for competing in the recruitment game.
The question to organisations is – how will you adapt your ways of working to attract and retain the UK’s top talent, and make sure you’re supporting your employees to be as productive as they can be?