Our recent Salary Guide revealed that over the course of 2020, fewer comms professionals were offered flexible working as a benefit – only 54% of in-house professionals (this is down 9 percentage points on our findings from 2019) and only 40% of agency professionals have flexible working options.
Given that the extraordinary events of the last 18 months have seen a dramatic increase in the desire for home and flexible working to continue longer term in some form, these figures are not particularly positive for the comms industry.
The enormous shift that the world of work underwent during 2020, including the move from working in an office space to working from home will have undoubtedly impacted flexible working practices. Most comms professionals have been working from home during the past 18 months, and it could be that many of them no longer feel the need to ask specifically for flexible hours. Perhaps they regard the enforced WFH model as a flexible working model of sorts. Either way, employers should be prepared for a surge in flexible working requests as we move into a post-Covid environment.
Are employers less willing to offer flexible working?
A move to more flexible working doesn’t have be seen as an additional burden for employers. If the past year or so has shown us anything, it is that flexible working can bring benefits for both sides, for instance, in terms of cost savings, increased job satisfaction and engagement, and better mental health.
If they haven’t already done so, then now is the time for employers to move beyond just considering flexible working requests. Surely this is an opportunity to think imaginatively about future ways of working and to consider whether increased agility could be incorporated into the workforce in a sustained and beneficial way as things start to move forwards?
Is an agile working environment the future?
Although the terms ‘agile’ and ‘flexible’ are frequently interchanged, there is a difference between the two styles.
Flexible work arrangements encompass work done either in or outside of the physical building. However, flexible working means more than working from home. It can also encompass part-time working, reduced hours, compressed hours, job shares, term-time working arrangements and much more.
At the same time, agile working is all about what happens within the confines of an office.
Adopting an agile work environment approach means allowing the employees to dictate how they can get their work done best. Agile working is not a new fad. In fact, it has been around for a couple of decades. The method allows employees to work in different areas of the office, or work remotely when they decide, thus offering more flexibility. Agile working is based on the concept that we are all humans at the end of the day, and some days when we are having a bad day, it may be hard to get the job done. An agile environment calls for more freedom of movement around the workspace and the facilitation of a diverse range of work modes, including collaboration, social interaction, private focus work and impromptu meetings, meaning that employees work when they are their most effective, improving productivity.
New employee expectations
The expectation is that, even after vaccination programmes are complete, a large proportion of employees will expect to work from home at least some of the time going forward in a ‘hybrid’ model. Employers’ response to this change in working habits is crucial to their future success.
Employers will need to be thinking about how they are going to act upon employee expectations of new working patterns. We have spoken to so many candidates who have indicated a preference for remote working at least part of the time going forward, so employers need to consider carefully how best to remain an employer of choice and stay competitive. ‘How many days am I expected in the office?’ or ‘Will I be able to mix working from home with time at the office?’ have become standard questions from candidates, which means one thing – companies asking for 5 days a week in the office are going to struggle to attract the best talent.
The benefits of in-person collaboration are undeniable and a requirement for most businesses to thrive, so an element of compulsory workplace attendance needs to form part of new flexible working packages.
These are all important considerations for employers now that we have entered a ‘new norm’ in the workplace. Whether it’s agile or flexible working practices that employees are looking for from an employer, neither are going away, so any employers thinking that we will ‘go back to the ways things were when we finally get back to the office’ are fooling themselves. The requests for agile working and flexibility are coming in thick and fast.
To read our full Salary Guide, click here
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