Dec 17th 2018

Adapting to a flexible workforce

Flexible working has long been associated with working mums, but Timewise set out to debunk the mum myth. They carried out a survey revealing 87% of the UK’s full-time workforce either work flexibly or want to do so. 57% said it gives them more control over their work/life balance, 32% said it allowed them to enjoy leisure or study time, 29% said it helped them with caring duties and 20% said it helped work fit with personal commitments. There are multiple reasons why flexible working is on the up, some are born out of personal commitments and some from personal preferences. But regardless of age or gender, flexible working requirements are on the up.

This has inevitably given rise to new attitudes towards the workplace. People place far more value on a company’s flexible working culture and the workplace accommodating a flexible lifestyle and career. With company’s recognising this, perks such as flexible working hours have become increasingly prevalent giving employees the autonomy to manage their own time and define a working arrangement that supports their lifestyle. In fact, nearly a third of workers would prefer flexible working to a pay rise.

To facilitate flexible working and enhance the remote working experience, a company needs to engrain flexibility into its operations. As technology has advanced, software and programs have simultaneously developed that can help facilitate remote working. Slack and Skype have made working with remote colleagues, even remote teams, simple and free. Programs such as Asana, a hybrid task and project management tool, allows users to manage and track multiple projects with ease. Google Drive allows users to share and upload files as well as create and edit documents live. By simply integrating these systems, remote work can be made much more efficient.

Not only do flexible arrangements benefit employees, but also employers. Research from the CIPDhas shown implementing flexible working practices improves staff engagement, motivation and loyalty. It is an active way to show employees you recognize they have commitments outside of work. 66.8% of employers reported improved employee retention and 65.9% reported increased engagement. This undoubtedly saves business time and money too.

But accommodating and adapting to a flexible workforce goes further than just having flexible hours and using different programmes. Companies need to learn to embed flexibility into its structure to truly benefit from the flexible workforce and access highly skilled talent. To manage this external workforce effectively, companies need to redesign their roles and look beyond traditional organizational constructs I.E. a full time employee fills a permanent job, and realise that in order to access the highly skilled talent the format of employment needs to change and adapt. Freelance workers need to be used for the core operations of a business. As talent and skills gaps grow, as many as 40 percent of companies experience shortages that affect their ability to adapt and innovate. Utilising freelancers creates the flexibility to meet business goals and allow scalability to meet fluctuating demand.

Ultimately, the workforce is changing. If companies do not adapt they will not only miss out on talent but also miss out the undeniable benefits this flexible, highly skilled and agile workforce can offer. As the world becomes more fast paced, a company in this business environment needs to be agile and an agile, flexible workforce can facilitate this. But accommodating this workforce goes much further than adjusting hours. It incorporates integral organisational and structural changes. And the reluctance to make these changes will not only have detrimental effects on talent attraction, but in an increasingly fast paced business environment, a resistance to agility will lead to the demise of business as a whole.