Flexible working exposes sectoral differences

Remote working is very much here to stay in the post-pandemic era, according to a survey of more than 900 firms conducted by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

A group of men and women work in an open plan office
However, the survey also showed wide differences between sectors over who has been able to adopt flexible working during the Covid-19 outbreak: whereas 80% of business-to-business (B2B) services firms have done so, only 61% of manufacturers and 54% of business-to-consumers (B2C) firms have felt able to do so.Overall, the BCC found that two-thirds of businesses were now offering remote working to employees, and that 74% expect the practice to continue over the coming year.Jane Gratton, head of people policy at the BCC, said, “During the pandemic, many employers have learned how to manage and motivate people working from home. They’ve also experienced the advantages of an agile workforce, in terms of diversity, skills and productivity."It’s vital that businesses have access to clear guidance, information and best practice resources to help them embrace the broadest range of remote, workplace and flexible working options as we emerge from the pandemic.“These results show that nearly three-quarters of firms will now continue to benefit from a remote working option during the coming year. But it’s clear that some firms and individuals are facing barriers to remote working with many employers concerned about the impact on team morale and employee wellbeing."Ms Gratton pointed out that working from home was far from being the only way people could work flexibly, such as job sharing or self-rostering of shifts."Businesses need to attract the best people with the skills they need to be successful and flexible working enables employers to unlock new pools of talent. Offering flexible working opens the door for businesses to find the talent they need to fuel growth and rebuild our economy,” she added.
Read more about flexible working
The survey found that flexitime or staggered hours were offered by 38% of firms and part-time hours by 36%. Working from different locations was on offer from a third of respondents but only 15% offered flexible working as standard for all positions.The proportions offering options such as job sharing and self-rostering of shifts were each below a tenth of companies.More than half of firms expressed fears that remote working could pose problems of staff morale or mental health and wellbeing. Additionally, 30% of respondents pointed to the unfairness to staff whose roles could not be performed remotely.Firms also cited monitoring productivity (28%), poor internet connectivity (26%) and issues with IT (24%) as barriers to implementing remote working.BCC added, "There were further sectoral divides in the responses. For instance, 53% of manufacturers cited requirement for physical presence to operate equipment, whist in B2C service firms the proportion was 35% and B2B service businesses only 16%."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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