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The Tug of War: Flexible Working

There is a tug-of-war at the moment between employers and employees regarding flexible working, and it will be interesting to see how it pans out over the next few months.

It’s nearly three years since Boris told us that we all had to work from home and for many of us, this was a new experience. I remember vividly packing up my desk, loading up my car and driving home, not knowing what the future held.

A few months after that day, many large corporate companies saw it as an opportunity to move all their staff to home-based.

In November 2020, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that the most common reason for using or planning to use homeworking as part of a permanent business model was:

1.     Improved staff well-being (60%)

2.     Reduced overheads (43%)

3.     Increased productivity (40%)

However, as time has passed, some companies have discovered remote working is not as efficient as they originally thought. Younger employees (in particular) are finding it difficult to work from home, leading to a decline in their well-being.

This has led to a change of thought, and companies are now keen to bring employees, including their new hires, back into the office… but this transition is not without its challenges. We're finding that most senior candidates are saying, “why should we?” With demand for talent still as high as ever, I certainly think there's going to have to be a compromise, and it's most likely going to consist of flexible working.

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LinkedIn Poll - February 2023

Our recent poll on LinkedIn found that a staggering 62% of respondents wouldn't consider a 100% office-based job. As a result, companies are now offering flexible working arrangements, with most asking employees to work a minimum of three days a week in the office, and even this is a deal-breaker for many senior-level candidates. 

The shift to flexible working is backed up by data from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) in February 2022, where eight in ten workers who had to work from home during the pandemic said they planned to work on a hybrid basis going forward.

Why do employees want to work from home?

The main benefits of working from home are saving time and money commuting. However, with the increase in energy costs over the last 12 months, some of those financial benefits are being eroded. 

Many employees find it easier to work from home with fewer distractions and are ultimately more productive. However, this is only the case if you have a suitable, quiet area to work from within your home.

Potentially another reason to work from home?

More than 3.2 million pets were bought during lockdown in 2020, and the RSPCA reported the number of pets abandoned was up by 25% in 2022.

Dogs make up a significant portion of these abandoned pets, with many owners struggling to afford their care or simply unable to devote the time and attention they need.

As companies push for employees to return to the office, this poses an additional challenge for dog owners. With only 15% of offices being dog-friendly, many employees may be hesitant to leave their pets alone at home during the workday. This could mean that dog owners have to make a difficult choice between their career and their beloved pet.

Competitive Salaries are no longer key…

With the current shortage of candidates, salaries are being driven up, and candidates are much more willing to play hardball now. They are not just looking for increased pay; they are also seeking flexible working arrangements and are prepared to walk away if they’re not offered what they’re looking for.

Two Rates of Pay?

It is likely that there will be two rates of pay going forward. It looks like companies will have to pay a premium to entice those office-based employees back into the office. This would help with the cost of commuting.

The Way Ahead

The reality is that both employers and employees have valid concerns, and finding a balance between their needs can be a challenge. Employers need to ensure that the business continues to run effectively, while employees need to be able to balance work with other responsibilities and maintain a healthy work-life balance. It's a complex issue, and finding the right solution will require open and honest communication, creativity, and a willingness to compromise.