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19 August 2021 · by Huntress What does flexible working mean to your business?

‘Flexible working’ describes a type of working arrangement which gives a degree of flexibility on how long, where, when, and at what times employees work.  

Whilst flexible working may have been a nice consideration for the future, the global pandemic has forced a high number of businesses to evaluate how, when and where their employees work. And in turn, how this may affect their productivity, motivation, and mental health.  

The lines are also being increasingly blurred between work and home life and both candidates and clients are exploring how they can navigate this and what ‘blend’ works well for them. The challenge most businesses face is that not one size fits all when it comes to working flexibly and that is certainly something that we are finding when speaking to our clients. The holistic approach for HR departments has been more important than ever and with the formal ‘return to work’ message communicated on the 19th July, it is high on the agenda for our clients and candidates alike.  

But what do candidates want? When speaking to our candidates a clear theme is appearing across different sectors and job roles. Candidates are keen to review their work life balance and have had their eyes opened to the possibilities of a new way of working. They want to work for forward thinking businesses that actively involve them in what their roles and careers look like going forward.  

We know that a high number of businesses cannot fundamentally change their process, so how can they adapt to a new way of working whilst not affecting the operations of the business? And how do you strike the balance between listening to your employees and finding a company-wide solution that works for all? Here is some advice based on what we have learnt from both candidates and clients over the past 12 months.  

Listen

We have found that the first stage for several clients has been listening to their current workforce and how their opinions have changed. This has enabled them to understand what potential employees will want and what in turn they can offer.  

In contrast, many businesses are afraid that if they ask their employees about ‘what they want’ it will result in everyone wanting to work from home 100% of the time and this will be expected. However, those that have, have been surprised that this is not what a lot of people want and that for most employees’, there is a happy medium to be found. Some people find working from home mentally challenging without the interaction of others and similarly find it difficult to stay motivated. And others feel as though they are more productive from home as they don’t lose time in the day commuting and can be available for the things that are important to them personally e.g. taking time to focus on the physical wellbeing or doing the school run. 

Adapt 

The days of a ‘one size fits all’ approach to a people strategy is long gone, and whilst it is still being debated at by senior management teams, HR professionals have been talking about taking a more ‘holistic approach’ for several years. The businesses that have either thrived or survived during the pandemic are those who were able to adapt to the restrictions, ways of working and innovate their business model to give people what they ‘need’ vs what they ‘want.’ And this is no different for its people, as the way that clients should onboard, support and engage with employees should also change.  

Remote onboarding is a fantastic way to grow your workforce quickly and effectively. Teams, Zoom and other video chat offerings have enabled employers to interview, select and onboard new employees quickly and easily.  

Observe 

It is always important to keep a close eye on your people and how they are feeling but even more so post pandemic. People have been through so much in the past 16 months that it is more important than ever to continue to check in, sense check and help people overcome any issues they may be having. This is also an effective way to offer some flexibility when needed. You might work in a business which does not have a hybrid approach to flexible working or where the nature of the role will not allow a ‘formal’ flexible working arrangement. Offering this as and when people need it is a great way to make your employees feel valued and appreciated.  

If you would like more specific advice on how businesses within your sector are approaching flexible working, then please contact one of our branches who can offer impartial advice that may help you with your ongoing people strategy.  

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