Work like it’s 2022: the future is flexible
Whilst working parents – and mothers in particular – have spent decades trying to balance their personal and professional lives, the pandemic added a further, unprecedented curve ball to the nigh impossible juggle.
According to Harvard Business Review, in the first year of the pandemic, 54 million women around the world left the workforce with almost 90% exiting completely. The wake of this on gender parity, career progression and female representation in the workplace is devastating.
In the UK alone, a new study by LinkedIn reports 52% of women have considered leaving – or have left – their roles due to a lack of flexibility. This “flexidus” isn’t just limited to women: a recent survey by Capability Jane reveals 92% of millennials view workplace flexibility as a top priority and 52% of men want flexibility in their next role.
Rebecca Lovelock, founder of branding agency Bretom, understands the conflict: “Lots of people – particularly women – are subduing ambition because they think balance can’t be achieved and stepping back as a consequence. What we’d hoped the pandemic would prove, is the degree of flexibility you can have around the way you work – which we’ve always believed at Bretom.”
Offering a hybrid, flexible working environment where people can perform at their best, has the potential to boost productivity, build resilience, adaptability and elevate skills and performance.
“Because of the pandemic, people are having a really interesting reflection on what they value…there is an increasing acceptance amongst employees and workers that the value they place on relationships and hobbies outside of work activities is as integral to their wellbeing as potentially their work was in the first place.”
One of the founding principles of Bretom, is appreciating people’s contributions, the value they can add and empowering them to work in a way that works best for them.
“There is that connectivity we talk about with humanising brands – it’s more than just representation, it’s about seeing work as a group of people: understanding them, their working patterns and styles – it’s the only way you end up with inclusivity because you have more empathy towards what is going on in people’s lives.” says Rebecca.
“You do need people to do their jobs, achieve – and over achieve – 95% of the time but managing what those expectations are and how they are delivered is the bit that can evolve, rather than lessening people’s ambition.”
Janine Chamberlin, UK Country Manager at LinkedIn, also believes flexible working is the way forward: “It’s important that businesses continue to listen to employees’ needs – otherwise they risk talented women finding opportunities elsewhere or leaving the workforce entirely. As we redesign workplaces for a new world of work, we must ensure flexibility is at the core and that it works for everyone.”
The benefits of a flexible workplace are far reaching as a survey by Global Workplace Analytics shows: a hybrid working environment makes employees feel happier (83%), more trusted (82%), improves their work/life balance (81%), and makes them more likely to recommend their company to a friend (81%).
It’s not just the employees reaping the rewards, organisations offering flexible, hybrid working are attracting top talent, improving diversity, increasing their retention and boosting their productivity.
According to Accenture’s Future of Work report: 63% of high-growth organisations have enabled “productivity anywhere” workforce models whilst 69% of negative or no-growth companies are still focused on where people are going to physically work (favouring all onsite or remote rather than enabling hybrid).
“Asking where people should work in the future may well be the wrong question, perhaps we should be asking: what unleashes a person’s potential, enabling them to be healthy and productive, regardless of where they work?” Accenture, The Future of Work.
“We have a moment of reckoning,” says Dr. C. Nicole Mason, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, “and it’s not only an opening, it’s an opportunity…to reimagine a workplace that is actually more reflective of our lives…”
There’s no doubt we are at a turning point, one that provides an opportunity and an invitation to disrupt traditional narratives and beliefs around the workplace and re-imagine the balls we juggle.
“With many professional services firms reintroducing attendance requirements, it already feels like the tide is turning,” acknowledges Rebecca.
“If we’re to avoid sliding back into the comfortable slippers of pre-pandemic working practices, the time to act is now. Businesses and leaders really need to think through how and why things are done…only then can we explore the art of the possible and empower those around us to thrive…”