29th Jun 2021
3 Min Read

Flexible working. The time is now

Hester Lonergan
Hester Lonergan
Culture & Change

The term ‘hybrid working’ has been well and truly embedded into business vernacular. Leaders and HR teams are becoming comfortable with allowing employees to work part from home, part from an established workplace. But location isn’t the whole story, and people are turning their attention to the other key feature of hybrid working – time.

For most, hybrid working locations were born out of necessity. The pandemic had less bearing on when we do our jobs, so views on working hours remained relatively unchanged. But employees’ perspectives have begun to shift and, according to IoIC’s latest Future of Work report, flexibility in working hours is just as important to them as location.

Over the last 18 months, the average knowledge worker – someone traditionally based in an office as opposed to the frontline – has been clocking up more hours remotely than they would in their place of work. In some cases, abnormal hours have been a business requirement – in others, a personal choice. Either way, working outside the normal nine to five has got us observing our natural peaks and troughs, finding out when we work best and when we want time back for ourselves.

People are embracing their differences, re-evaluating their priorities and designing their own lifestyles. And they’re taking it seriously – Stylist reported that ‘around a quarter of workers are prepared to quit their jobs, rather than go back to working in offices full-time.’ They describe the uplifting feeling of taking a break from work altogether, leaving behind the constraints and pressures that come with it.

Employees want to work to their own rhythms, leveraging their flexible locations to create a routine that aligns with their lives. And, crucially, if employers don’t accommodate, employees are not just prepared to find new job prospects; they’re ready to leave, period.

Rather than playing in the margins and working to be seen as ‘better’ than competitors, employers need to create a working ethos that delivers progression and facilitates freedom on its own terms. Employers are now playing against the vision of a life employees want to lead.

What do flexible working schedules even look like?

The IoIC’s report defines flexible working as ‘any work type that breaks away from the conventional nine-to-five, five-day working week model. It includes the four-day week, part-time work, compressed hours, flexitime, job shares, the nine-day fortnight, remote-working and more’. Its long list only begins to cover the iterations.

Working schedules used to be clear cut: the divide between full- and part-time was absolute and definitive. Full-time came with consistent unpaid overtime and an ‘always-on’ mindset, and part-time came with few concessions, no progression and a healthy dose of disregard. But perceptions and expectations are changing, and employees are reaching for a boundless spectrum of opportunities.

So how can organisations begin to approach this?

The first step in addressing flexible working schedules is to banish loaded language. IC and HR teams need to look at the way they talk to colleagues; how many conversations are geared towards employees who are always-on and available? The stigma will persist as long as people see flexible working hours as the outlier. Start by considering your entire audience and speaking inclusively to them – it might just show them you’re open to a flexible future.

Want to chat about opening up the flexible working conversation in your organisation? Talk to me.

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