According to a report published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 46.4% of employees in London worked at home “at some point” in 2020, with many taking this new-found way of working into the new year too.
Many companies, in fact, decided to pivot towards a more flexible way of working over the past year, giving their employees freedom to choose their hours and whether they want to work from the office or to be flexible.
The benefits of flexible working for employers
There are a few elements that led to employers making the shift towards a more “relaxed” way of working, one of which is the financial element, with employers seeing WFH as an opportunity to cut costs. While before the primary use for a central HQ was to centralize all operations by having the team work together, as we move towards a more flexible way of conducting business, Head Quarters are turning into a “company landmark” used primarily to build trust. As the number of employees deciding to work remotely increases, the amount of office space required decreases, bringing down the affiliated cost for things like office supplies, utility bills and other facilities. Staff may also be able to take advantage of the tax relief available from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) for working from home – an advantage most employees will appreciate, increasing employee retention and boosting the overall satisfaction.
Flexible working has also had another inevitable impact on the way businesses scout talents, leading to an expansion of the talent pool available to employers. The cost-effectiveness that can result from having a wider choice of candidates to select from is one not to be underestimated. This of course opens the doors to a world of opportunities for employers and employees alike.
How has flexible working impacted management?
Not having to commute and maintaining a good work-life balance are the main reasons why employees would prefer to carry on working from home. From a project management perspective, it has also been found that the increased staff motivation will directly affect productivity. Unlike at the office, flexible working allows employees to have quiet, uninterrupted work cycles, without the distractions that come with sharing an office space with several colleagues.
Preact is one of the many UK-based companies that decided to adjust their ways of working during (and after) lockdown to their employees’ needs, adopting a more flexible approach. According to Warren Butler, Marketing Director of Preact, by giving their team flexibility on where and when to work, the company has noticed a positive effect on their staff’s wellbeing. “Lockdown has given us the opportunity to re-evaluate our working structures and consider a different approach, which relied mainly on trust”.
When asked about how feasible flexible working really is from a management perspective, Butler said; “micro-management is no longer an acceptable approach. We now know that giving our employees the opportunity to tailor their workdays around their needs results in a better overall performance. If before we would measure our team’s productivity based on their attendance rate, we are now more concerned about outcomes”.
According to a study published by Global Workplace Analytics, in fact, WFH employees are 20% to 25% more productive than their colleagues working from the office. Being able to work “on your own terms”, taking breaks when needed or opting for a sofa rather than a desk, helps with motivation and creativity, improving performance.
The flexible approach is not a “one-size fits all” solution – think about companies that require staffers to deal with inventory, building maintenance, or administrative tasks – however, it is a step towards a more flexible future in which employees feel valued for the results they produce, rather than for their presence only.
As we cautiously return to “normality”, many companies are taking the time to weigh out their options, deciding whether flexible working is the way ahead for them. The future is certainly being re-shaped to become more flexible and it is in companies’ best interest to understand how to create the perfect balance that will keep employees satisfied and productive, ultimately affecting the results produced.