Together, employers and employees can create future flexibility

New manager meeting team

In the space of a few months, flexible working has been extended and expanded for millions of workers across the globe. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced employers to radically change the way their people work, with the temporary closure and/or reconfiguration of workplaces.

Having experienced these new working arrangements, the question for leaders is: Should these flexible ways of working become permanent? The answer is yes for some roles – but not all roles are created equal.

Our survey of 2,000+ business leaders found 78% said employee productivity is either stable or elevated when working from home, and 86% said they want to offer remote working after the pandemic.

Meanwhile, employees have experienced the impacts of flexible working on their health, family relationships and mental wellbeing. Our survey of 5,000+ professionals found 88% expect to work from home in future, with 40% preferring a few days per week and 27% twice per month.

Writing the next chapter together

Now that the rulebook for workplaces and workforces has been rewritten, employers and employees can write the next chapter together. By analysing the data, outputs and lessons from the past few weeks, they can create stronger organisations with more productive and enjoyable jobs. 

Employers and employees are questioning the old assumption that entire teams and departments need to be located together in gleaming city skyscrapers. A 2020 Robert Walters survey found 37% of leaders are already considering downsizing their office space, with the obvious benefit of reducing overheads. “Many employers are re-evaluating the logic of paying premium rates for office space in central business districts,” says Robert Walters New Zealand Director, Shay Peters. “The future could see more working from home and satellite offices springing up in regional hubs for staff to ‘touchdown’ closer to where they live.”

Flexible working is most sustainable when it delivers results for employers and employees, according to Robert Walters Queensland Director, Sinead Hourigan. “It’s important to have open conversations between managers and staff about what has and hasn’t gone well during this year’s upheaval. Honesty is important because you learn just as much from what hasn’t gone smoothly, as you do from what has gone well. Sharing these learnings helps to build resilience in your team and can help point the way towards future working arrangements.”

To assess the ‘flex potential’ of different jobs, employers should ask questions such as: 

  • Do the responsibilities require their physical presence in the office?
  • Which remote technology would be required?
  • Could this expose the organisation to unnecessary data security risk?
  • How important is face-to-face interaction for this role?
  • Can we ensure our organisational culture is sustained?

Technology can boost the accuracy of this process. For example, the BrightWorks Consultancy has developed The Role Mapper with built-in algorithms to assess flexible working patterns for each role in an organisation.

To find out more about the future of workplace flexibility, read the new Robert Walters eguide The Future of Work: Futureproofing Careers and Workforces.

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