Flexible working 'here to stay', surveys show

The profound way that the coronavirus pandemic has affected working practices across the UK has been reflected in the publication of two new surveys.

Woman on a Zoom meeting with colleagues
One of the surveys, conducted by the Institute of Directors (IoD), found that 80% of business leaders said they would be increasing the use of remote working in the future.In the other survey, compiled by professional services consultancy Barnett Waddingham, more than a third of the workers questioned said they would start looking for another job were their employers to curtail working-from-home arrangements adopted as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.The IoD survey of almost 600 business leaders who have had to adopt new practices during the pandemic, found that almost a quarter planned to hire more staff under flexible contracts and that one in five would make more use of co-working spaces and 'hot desking'.Additionally, 59 per cent were planning to use virtual interviews for hiring beyond the pandemic, while about a third intended to cut back on office space.Joe Fitzsimons, senior policy adviser at the IoD, said: “Business leaders have had to adapt quickly during the pandemic. Recruitment and workplace behaviour have had to change to adjust to restrictions and uncertainty. Many organisations are now looking to see which pandemic practices may be advantageous for them to keep well into the future.

“While there are many benefits to virtual interviews in levelling the playing field for applicants and increasing diversity and inclusion, these practices also place greater demands on the broader skillset of directors. Recruiting and onboarding employees at a distance, particularly for less experienced individuals at the early stages of their career, can prove challenging.“Organisations will need access to individuals with technical know-how, leadership and management skills and an ability to quickly adapt to changing workplace norms over the coming months.”The research by Barnett Waddingham found that only one in five employees were keen to return to offices fulltime in the post-pandemic era, while 23 per cent said that, if their companies did not allow flexible working to continue, they would raise the subject with senior management and then seek a new job if nothing happened. Another 11 per cent said they would immediately look for a new job if flexible working ended.David Collington, head of benefit consulting at Barnett Waddingham said that the risks for employers were clear should they fail to retain some form of flexible working in future.“Employers now need to focus on gauging the views and preferences of their workforce. It’s no use adopting a blanket ‘back to the office’ or ‘only work at home’ policy," he said."Businesses risk their employees feeling dissatisfied and disillusioned with their company, and in today’s competitive job market, the cost of this decision in recruitment and retention terms far outweighs the cost of a nuanced and flexible policy.”

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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