Whether you’re hiring or applying – a little bit of flexibility goes a long way!
Flexible working is high on every candidate’s list of requirements but what does that really mean and how important is it for both employer and candidate to be flexible in order to secure a great outcome for all?
The Covid pandemic brought a sudden and seismic shift to the world of work and at the forefront of that shift were our expectations around flexible working. It’s rare to find a candidate who doesn’t want flexible working as a condition of their employment these days but employers are increasingly keen to get their workforce back to the office full time. In some ways it feels like we’ve reached a bit of an impasse – employers want their staff in the office and employees are reluctant to give up the perceived benefits of working from home. So, what’s the way forward? As with most things there are plus and minus points and a compromise with a bit of flexibility on both sides is most likely to get the best out of the role and the employee.
First off: What do we mean by flexible working?
A bit of a buzz word nowadays, but what does it actually mean? According to GOV.UK:
Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, for example having flexible start and finish times, or working from home.
As it stands today, all employees have the legal right to request flexible working. Known as ‘making a statutory application’, an employer is legally bound to give reasonable consideration to all requests for flexible working and every employee with 26 weeks of service with the same employer has the right to request it .
What the stats tell us:
The statistics point to a preference for hybrid working, particularly for employees. According to Sage 92% of millennials say flexible working is a priority when job hunting. And 70% of employees feel that flexible working makes a job more attractive. However, only 20% of jobs offer flexibility.
This mis-match is becoming increasingly apparent as the ‘recruitment crisis’ deepens. With a surplus of vacancies, employers are having to rethink the working environment and how roles are delivered in order to meet candidates’ requirements for flexibility, or they risk missing out on good people for their roles.
ADVICE FOR EMPLOYERS:
As an employer you will be seriously limiting your talent pool and your access to the best people if you are not willing to consider a flexible approach to working. There are many preferences and opinions out there to consider. And in most cases there will be an arrangement that suits all parties.
Not all roles are created equally when it comes to flexible working or working from home
It might seem obvious, but some job roles simply aren’t suited to flexible working or working from home. This might be due to the need for the role to be carried out at a specific location or using equipment that’s only available on site. Some roles require face to face interaction and some have safety or confidentiality considerations that mean equipment and/or data needs to remain in a secure environment.
ADVICE FOR CANDIDATES:
Think realistically about how effectively a role can be carried out flexibly or exclusively/partly from home. Try to approach from the employer’s point of view as well.
It’s time to meet in the middle
Advice for Employers:
Right now, the power largely sits with the candidates. It’s a candidate driven market and we’ve found that many employers are willing to make reasonable considerations to accommodate flexible working to help secure great candidates.
That said, we’ve seen a few cases recently where employers have missed out on good prospective candidates because they obstinately refuse to consider flexible working even though it could be made to work within their business.
- Be open to flexible working
Our advice to employers is to be open to allowing your team to work from home at least some of the time to facilitate the work/life balance employees clearly crave.
- Make work somewhere people want to be
It’s really important to acknowledge that there are some definite benefits to spending time in the office. Making the workspace a nice place to be can really help with encouraging your team into the office. Essentially, the real value of a business is its people, so encouraging colleagues to help and support each other is important, as well as making it social. This can go a long way to encouraging employees back to the office. Listening in on others’ sales calls or watching how they conduct face to face meetings can be really useful. Also social events such as a staff lunch on a Friday will help to create more in person practices.
- Don’t assume productivity will reduce
Some employees will inevitably work better in the office whereas others will be able to concentrate better and achieve much more at home. There is evidence to suggest that in some cases employees work longer hours at home as they don’t have a commute or are more inclined to pick things up out of office hours.
Advice for candidates:
Having the option to work flexibly can be really beneficial but we’d urge caution in making it the be all and end all of your next role.
Are you career focused?
It’s hard to be visible to your boss if you’re never in a room with them! If you’re keen on progressing your career, then we’d encourage you to think about the advantages of face to face working in this regard. It’s a lot easier to engage and build rapport with your managers when you see them face to face. Of course, talent and working hard are important too but don’t underestimate the importance of relationship when it comes to promotion.
Work life balance isn’t always better at home
Yes there’s no commute and yes you can take the dog for a walk at lunchtime but many who work from home find they actually end up working longer hours as the lines between work and home time become blurred. Loneliness was a real issue for many people during the pandemic and interacting with colleagues is an important part of work life. Also, the company culture can’t be learned and absorbed in the same way from your home desk.
So working from home doesn’t necessarily balance work/home life positively.
Humans learn best when we spend time watching and participating with someone who’s got experience. You’re more likely to develop your skills and knowledge quicker when you spend at least some of your time in the office.
This article in The Telegraph about BlackRock offers some interesting insight as to why companies are encouraging their staff back to the office. To read click here:
Here’s another article from Harvard Business Review with some interesting insights into why Face to Face time still matters. To read click here:
There are obvious benefits to working from home and/or flexibly for employees including scheduling and the ability to work around children, family and pets. However, for employers there can be benefits too, including having phones manned at different times. Having employees set up to work from home allows for agility and responsiveness, plus it means employees can work from home easily in the face of rail strikes or extreme weather, avoiding disruption.
Both employers and employees should remain open to all possibilities and consider how they can make the position work for both parties. This will ensure that employers do not limit their talent pool and employees can secure the roles that will allow for development or career progression. Undoubtedly, this will lead to more productive working relationships on both sides.
If you are looking to recruit for a hybrid role or are looking for a new flexible role, then give Tom a call today on: + 44 (0)7960 354
This blog first appeared on the Recruitment@rainbowhr, site for whom Tom carries out consultancy work, Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill: what does it mean for employers? (recruitmentatrainbowhr.com)