Chief Executive, CIPD
The pandemic has fundamentally changed how we work. We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to create organisations that are more flexible and inclusive than ever before.
The arrival of the pandemic took many of the norms of working life and turned them on their head. Millions of workers were displaced into their homes as offices closed their doors while others continued to battle on the frontline in challenging circumstances never seen before. More than a year on, organisations now find themselves at a crossroads: what does the future of work look like?
Flexible and agile working practices can become the norm and create more opportunity for people to work, as well as being supportive of wellbeing, staff retention and productivity. The pandemic is a catalyst for change, creating the opportunity for more choice and hybrid ways of working.
At the peak of lockdowns, just under half the working population were working from home. People in essential roles where they had to be in places of work had a very different experience, many of these roles were lower paid. Flexible working isn’t just about places of work, it’s about schedules and hours, and working practices and cultures. There is no one size fits all.
Historically, changes towards more flexible working have progressed slowly, the language and culture of work and standard working weeks has barely changed in generations. Presenteeism, longer hours of working, stress at work and concerns of mental wellbeing were all heading in the wrong direction. The pandemic can tip the balance. Teaching us all to put people first, to see wellbeing as a critical outcome of good work, to give more opportunity for people to work effectively.
The needs and wants of employees have changed – click here to learn about work trends and employee benefits in Europe
The opportunity for more flexible working
At the CIPD we believe everyone should have a right to request flexible working from day one of their employment. Jobs and roles should be thought about and advertised as supporting flexibility in how people can work. The expectations have greatly increased through the pandemic. Employers will find themselves at real disadvantage in attracting and retaining the staff they need if they are not supporting more flexible working, including part time, different work schedules, as well as places of work.
Flexible working isn’t just about places of work, it’s about schedules and hours, and working practices and cultures. There is no one size fits all.
But in all this, we must better train managers at all levels. How to manage diverse teams with diverse ways of working, to focus on outputs and trust their people and to create supportive cultures. That must start from the top, but work throughout our organisations to shape a better and more inclusive future of work for all.