Flexibility In The Workplace
Before the pandemic began, work in the UK was becoming increasingly, if gradually, more flexible.
In 2019, around 5% of workers reported that they primarily worked at home. Adding to this, 30% of employees worked from home on occasion. So, while workplace flexibility wasn’t mainstream yet, the numbers show that employers were starting to become more open to the idea.
Fast forward to 2020 when the pandemic hit, working from home was now essential for many industries. With lockdowns and restrictions, flexibility in the workplace was key to the survival of countless companies. It was this flexibility that ensured businesses that would have completely shut down could keep a portion of their business running.
By April 2020, it’s no surprise that the number of workers who primarily worked at home jumped from 5% to 30%. Further, 86% of these workers reported that this was a direct result of pandemic restrictions.
In 2022, with life increasingly returning to normal how are companies approaching this paradigm shift in working arrangements? Are work-from-home and hybrid arrangements here to stay? Keep reading to learn more!
Does Everyone Want to Work-From-Home Now?
Flexibility and work-from-home arrangements became highly popular during the pandemic, which is a trend that has continued through to today. While some still prefer that connection of being in person, many have gotten comfortable with it and even prefer to work at their home office instead.
In a 2021 survey by the Office of National Statistics, 85% of employees who were working from home were interested in having a hybrid approach to their work.
A hybrid work model can offer the best of both worlds. While it doesn’t mean employees are strictly working from home it is far more flexible than being required to work in an office all the time.
This type of work arrangement creates a balance between team building with in-person meetings and collaboration as well as the flexibility to maintain a better work-life balance.
For those employees who prefer to work exclusively in the office, the hybrid model also offers the flexibility to increase the number of days they work in person.
It truly creates an inclusive approach for all working styles!
How Have Companies Adapted to Working at Home Practices?
With such strong interest from employees in a hybrid work model, it has become essential for many employers to adapt. Let’s look take a look at two of the key ways these adaptations have been put in place.
1. Hybrid Work Models Are Now a Hiring Incentive
To stand out and attract the best candidates, many companies and even the government now include workplace flexibility as a key incentive in their hiring practices.
A managerial position with an annual salary of £50,000 with HMRC recently highlight this in their job posting, “We know flexibility and work-life balance is important, so we offer flexitime to our people, along with the choice of working from home at least two days per week.”
Similarly, a job offer posted by the Intellectual Property Office with an annual salary of £67,000 only required applicants to work in the office two days a week.
By emphasising they’re open to candidates working from home part of the time, employers can attract a wide range of top applicants who prefer hybrid work models. It helps a company stand out and interest the talent they need to thrive.
2. Technology and Top 5 Apps To Connect Your Team
While job offers like those shared by the HMRC and Intellectual Property Office, might only require employees in the office a few days a week, the 5-day work week is still a standard. To keep employees connected and on track the rest of the time, technology and apps are now essential.
Some of the most popular apps which connect employees while working at home are:
- Microsoft Teams
- Google Meet
Each app provides a unique set of benefits, including the functionality to send messages, place calls, hold meetings with multiple participants, video conferencing, and document storage.
Alongside communication, project management has jumped online as well. A few popular apps that companies commonly use to collaborate on projects include:
- Microsoft Planner
By taking advantage of the unique capabilities remote working apps offer, companies can continue to adapt to the flexible in-person and at-home schedules of their employees – while keeping everyone on track to achieve productivity targets.
Is Working at Home Best For Established Roles?
In 2021, the former chancellor Rishi Sunak stated that workers at the beginning of their careers were best suited to in-person work. Sunak suggested that this would provide a better opportunity to build a strong network for their career through in-person collaboration.
This sentiment was also backed up by the Office For National Statistics, which reported, “Younger workers aged 16 to 29 years were less likely than those aged 30 years and over to report experiencing fewer distractions when homeworking.” For certain younger workers, remote work can be less productive due to distractions popping up around the home.
Most employees who work remotely actually fall into the age bracket of 30 to 49. This further backs up the concept that when workers establish their careers and begin to move into management positions they are also more likely to work from home.
What Are The Advantages of a Flexible Workplace?
One of the highest-ranked benefits of a flexible workplace is a better work-life balance. More than three-quarters of workers surveyed by the Office For National Statistics said that working from home improved their ability to create a balance between daily work and their life outside of working hours.
A better work-life balance isn’t the only advantage though! More than half of the employees who work from home said they were able to finish their work faster while being less distracted. So not only does a flexible workplace provide a general state of well-being by creating a more balanced lifestyle, but it also improves productivity and focus.
Another added benefit was that workers were able to save money. Rather than spending on the cost of commuting by paying for public transportation or fuel and parking costs for driving, they were able to set aside this money for other pursuits.
Are There Disadvantages of Working From Home?
With a boost in productivity, saving on commuting costs, and of course, a better work-life balance are there any disadvantages of working from home?
It depends! A third of hybrid workers said they didn’t experience any disadvantages in their experience working from home.
For some, however, working from home made it more difficult to collaborate with others and about 26% also found the experience to be more distracting.
While workers saved on commuting costs during their time at home, the flip side was that 86% saw an increase in their utility bills. Rather than being able to lower thermostat temperatures to save on heating their home, they now paid for that extra heat during the workday.
Depending on personality and work style, one other disadvantage can be loneliness. Collaborating in person and even catching up by the water cooler can add a boost to your day. Employees working at home can miss out on this. In this case, the social isolation of working at home, especially after the pandemic’s lockdowns can be a disadvantage for some.
Is a Flexible Work Environment Here to Stay or Are Employees Returning to The Office?
For many companies, a flexible work environment is here to stay. This trend is even more popular in the information and communication industry.
In a review of work practices, 24% of companies indicated that they would continue the hybrid work model moving forward. Some even suggested they would increase flexibility in the future.
Of those looking to continue or increase working-from-home options for their employees, 49% were in the information and communication industry. Other notable industries favouring the hybrid model include:
- 43% of Scientific and technical businesses
- 37.6% of Educational companies
- 26% of Real estate businesses
However, not all companies are decided on which model of work they prefer, 28% were unsure whether they would continue the hybrid model or require employees to return to a regular office schedule.
So, is the work-from-home option here to stay? It depends on the industry you work in. Some business models have more ability to adapt to hybrid working such as communication, technical research, and educational companies. This is in contrast to retail, travel, and restaurant services which require employees in person to provide services directly to customers.
The lack of adaptability in certain industries is perhaps the reason that so many employees are back in person at their workplace, approximately 46% as of spring 2022.
Even with a large portion of the population working in person, the overall trend still suggests that flexibility is here to stay.
From pre-pandemic 2019 to post-pandemic 2022, the percentage of employees who work from home jumped from 5% to 14% with a further 38% working in a hybrid model. So ultimately, it looks like the hybrid model is here to stay.
How We Do It At JA
At JA we specialise in the development of cloud-based software tailored for the CIS, Umbrella Payroll and PAYE payroll, and Contractor Accounting industry. Utilising cloud-based servers gives us the advantage of being able to offer our team members flexible working arrangements. Following on from the pandemic, our team has adopted various working preferences. Some have chosen to return to the office on a full-time basis, while others work remotely full time with the occasional visit to the office to catch up with the team. Additionally, some individuals prefer a hybrid work model.
For new team members, we request that they spend their first three months working in the office. This period allows them to familiarise themselves with the team and gain a comprehensive understanding of our software. It is essential for us to ensure their proficiency in implementing cyber security measures and upholding professional standards to maintain a secure environment.
Follow JA on linked in here to see what the team has been up to and to meet some of our amazing team members.
Wrapping it Up
Overall, since the pandemic has demonstrated that many employees can maintain or even increase their productivity while working at home, some degree of flexibility is now ingrained in the workplace culture.
Many employees are exclusively looking for positions that offer this level of flexibility with either entirely remote positions or hybrid models. What’s more, companies are responding. Even government positions are now actively highlighting the importance of workplace flexibility and reducing the number of days employees are required to be in person.
What are your thoughts on flexibility in the workplace – do you work from home, at a hybrid position, or are you back in the office? Share your thoughts in the comments section, then don’t forget to share this article on your socials!