The future of the office – it’s all about flexibility

Beate OeraResearch, insights & industry news

Millennials work life balance

The ultimate balance between hard work, productivity and having a work-life balance is increasingly in focus at the moment. We have certainly started to notice a shift in how offices are now more configured for remote working with informal spaces to encourage collaboration. With the election coming up, Labour’s manifesto has also put renewed focus on the 4 day work week.

It’s all about flexibility

Recent analysis from Aviva found that 1 in 7 UK workers are home-based, with 39% of these being employed. This doesn’t include the increasingly large number of workers who spend part of their working week at home. More importantly, attitudes towards flexible working are changing.

Know Your Money recently conducted a survey on the topic, and found 49% of respondents said they would be in favour of a four-day working week, even if it meant they would have to take a 20% pay cut. As many as 75% would prefer a shortened working week if they still had to complete their current number of weekly working hours in fewer days.

Most importantly, 70% of UK employees consider flexible working (both hours and location) as very important to their overall job satisfaction. Indeed, there is no shortage of studies drawing the same conclusion. The advantages to employees are obvious, as flexible working cuts commuting time, and increases the ability to fit work around other commitments.

So how can employers take advantage of the trend?

The case for employers

flexible working - working from home

Employers are increasingly embracing the benefits, and exploring how different solutions might increase productivity and save money. This is not surprising, as more and more studies are made on productivity, making it increasingly clear that there is no direct correlation between long hours in a fixed workplace, and high output.

For employers, giving employees greater flexibility tends to be repaid in kind – they will be more likely to log in out of hours, answer emails in the evenings and generally make themselves available. Employees who feel trusted and valued perform better and are good for company morale, and home working arrangements could also potentially result in cost saving in office costs.

Flexible working is also an opportunity for firms to steal a march on their competition. Whilst salary is always important, other benefits are also deeply valued by employees, as the stats demonstrate; offering flexible working can therefore be key to retaining and attracting top performers.

The pros & cons of flexible working

Work used to mean fixed hours and fixed place of work, but work is an activity increasingly divorced from having a set workplace. This is partly driven by the move towards home working, but even more so by technology, enabling us to be permanently connected to work as much as any other aspect of life.

It is in the inability to switch off that the greatest danger lies. In a 9-5 environment, there is a clear switch-off point, but flexible working and modern technology eliminates that, greatly increasing the risk of burnout. Full time home working also removes contact with colleagues, which may be necessary both on a professional and a human level.

There also examples of firms that have seen detrimental effects (media agency Starcom provides one example). Firms need to think carefully about their proposed policies, and whether they are likely to fit a firm’s needs, culture and clients. However, as technology improves, more options will become available, and the workplace will inevitably become more and more connected and virtual.

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