Flexible working is more than just a laptop at home, survey says

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) – Employers risk creating an unhealthy working culture in the post-pandemic world by embracing remote work without true flexibility, a survey led by King’s College London (KCL) found.

Businesses need to avoid giving the illusion of flexibility while still expecting staff to put in long hours and be responsive at irregular times, according to research by the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at KCL and employee advisory firm Karian and Box.

Almost all organisations polled said they are planning for a future involving hybrid work – split between home and office locations – though just 36 per cent are redesigning job roles with more flexibility in mind.

Without more targeted support, parents and carers in particular risk erasing the boundaries between work and home life and seeing their workload increase, the survey said.

Workers and employers around the world are grappling with new ways of operating after a year that has seen many step away from the office to slow the spread of Covid-19.

About a third of working adults in the UK are currently operating full-time from home, according to Office for National Statistics data.

Of the 254 organisations surveyed by King’s College, 90 per cent said they had increased support for working at home, with about three quarters doing more to help their staff work flexibly.

The report suggested implementing predictable or set hours, compressed days, job sharing and school term-time working as potential ways to ensure flexibility.

It also warned of the dangers of a two-tier workforce where those who are more regularly away from the office are overlooked for promotion and recognition.

“This is the moment to redesign work to tackle a range of problems holding back progress – from inflexible shift patterns for key workers, through to toxic, ‘always-on’ office cultures,” said Ms Rosie Campbell, director of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership.

“Employers should focus on outputs, rather than physical presence, in performance evaluations, and embrace the opportunity to consider how and where work is done to produce the best outcomes.”

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