Flexible Working? The New Normal
The general impact of Covid-19 is yet to be measured; however, the way we work will change forever.
Since the pandemic began, a record number of people were forced to work from home. Figures published by the Office for National Statistics showed that 86% of employees working from home did so as a result of the ongoing pandemic, with 75.3% of parents reporting that they would like to work more flexibility in the future. Now that the majority of the population has experienced some form of work-from-home, how will flexible working impact us?
Benefits from working from home have included boosted productivity, morale and a better work-life balance. Flexible work has positively impacted people commonly overshadowed in the workplace - people with disabilities and women. Gillian Smith, the Deputy Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the HMRC reported that: “Disabled staff and carers, in particular, have told me the increased flexibility has enabled them to manage better. They feel better supported and engaged, and as a result, see opportunities, they had not previously seen for using their talents and flourishing in their career”. Smith also reported that women have shared how flexibility has enabled them to strike a better balance, which has been met by open and responsive requests for flexibility.
It is, therefore, no surprise that the Government has called for flexible working to be normalised. Liz Truss, the Minister for Women and Equalities has suggested that it is in the interest of employers and employees to make flexible working standard. In light of Truss’ suggestion, recent research conducted by the UK Government-backed Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) and Indeed has revealed that offering flexible working arrangements increases job applications by 30%. Due to barriers such as high-cost accommodation near a place of employment, particularly those in the city being minimalised. Truss believes that by moving employment opportunities remotely, employing women will increase.
However, flexible working and work from home do have some drawbacks. In some cases, caring responsibilities have increased since the outbreak. For some people, their work has been negatively impacted by changes in their parental responsibilities. Furthermore, although flexible work arrangements will support maintaining a work-life balance, some of these policies might make it easier to transition some employees into part-time work. Some have suggested flexible work arrangements may create a disparity between career progression between men and women. It is due to women being more likely to request flexible work due to the need to provide childcare provisions. Nevertheless, although work from home has been challenging for some so far, it has given us an insight into what normalised flexible working may look like in the years to come.
With Covid-19 breaking the stigma around flexible working and Truss arguing that now is the time to normalise flexible working across the country, it is with no doubt that all of us will be experiencing some form of flexible work for the near future.
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