Ways of Working Have Changed Forever: Flexible Working Requires a Flexible Mindset

Introducing ‘Five Reasons to Raise Our Human Game’, our latest series of articles delving into the top five people challenges of 2024 we have identified in our exclusive research. In this series, we discover how human connection serves as an ‘antidote’ to the prevalent issues affecting workplaces around the country, including stress and burnout.

In this article, we explore how, since the pandemic, ways of working have changed forever as remote work and flexible arrangements have taken centre stage. We delve into how different life stages necessitate varying levels of flexibility, and how companies can marry the needs of the organisation with the needs of employees.

Our expert insights aim to guide you in strengthening your flexible working arrangements following the Flexible Working Bill, so you can alleviate the pressure on your people, develop a flexible mindset, and drive strong human connection.

Redefining Flexible Working

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world underwent an unprecedented shift in the way we work. The long-standing structure of working 9-5 in the office became outdated as remote work and flexible arrangements brought newfound freedom and flexibility throughout numerous lockdowns.

58% of companies believe the pandemic proved hybrid and remote working is viable, with more than half saying the pandemic challenged their views about whether roles need to be filled by employees working full-time from an office. Since then, more than half of UK businesses currently offer flexible working – a reported 566% increase from 2016 when just 8.7% of UK roles had flexible working.

Now, flexible working has been classed as the ultimate solution to achieving better work-life balance and improving employee satisfaction. However, the concept continues to go through radical redefinitions.

No longer confined to occasional commuting days, flexible working now includes a spectrum of arrangements, from fully remote to hybrid models that blend in-office and remote working.

Yet, while flexible working offers numerous benefits, it is important to recognise that standard policies will not meet the needs of everyone.

People at different stages in life will require varying levels of flexibility. For instance, workers with young children may need more flexibility to manage childcare responsibilities, while younger employees may value the flexibility to pursue further education or look after their wellbeing.

Therefore, transitioning to flexible working arrangements requires companies to carefully balance accommodating individual circumstances while building an environment conducive to collaboration and ongoing personal development.

This approach ensures that companies can sustain productivity and effective communication while meeting the diverse needs of their workforce.

The Flexible Working Bill

In response to the shifting dynamics of the modern workplace, the government has addressed the need for legislative frameworks to support flexible working.

Now that the ‘Flexible Working Bill’ has achieved Royal Assent, it is set to become law imminently, meaning millions of British workers will now have more flexibility over where and when they work.

Currently, workers have to provide 26 weeks of continuous service to make applications to change their working location, hours, or pattern. The Flexible Working Bill will change this, including introducing the right to request flexible or remote working from day one of a new job.

The Business Case for Flexible Working

The repercussions of work-related stress are staggering, costing the UK economy an estimated £28 billion a year. This comes after more than a fifth of UK adults have reported being in emotional distress from stress, burnout, and loneliness, leading to increased absenteeism and a severe decline in productivity.

With the rising cost of living driving more people back into the workforce and increasing financial concerns, the benefits of flexible working cannot be overstated.

Recent data found that 64% of businesses believe the cost of living crisis makes it more important to help their people work flexibly. To that, 68% of employees stated that companies need to implement flexible working policies to help employees navigate financial difficulty.

In a diverse workforce of working parents, caregivers, and generational differences, flexible working arrangements are not just a convenience, but a necessity. Balancing professional responsibilities with personal commitments requires flexibility and empathy from employers. Particularly as each employee will have distinct flexibility needs that need to be met.

9 in 10 employees report flexible working to be a key motivator to their productivity at work, even above financial incentives, while flexible working schedules help employees balance their work and life responsibilities. This ultimately increases average labour productivity for large and small businesses.

How to Successfully Make Flexible Working Work For All Employees

As a key driver for change and innovation in the workplace, embracing flexible working arrangements is a strategic imperative. By redefining their policies, companies can focus on building a culture of adaptability, enhancing employee resilience, and introducing transferable human skills.

A flexible mindset is pivotal in this arrangement. Characterised by curiosity, empathy, and openness to diverse perspectives, it enables individuals to find solutions that will work for everyone.

Developing such a mindset, along with the skills to navigate uncertainty and change, is essential for fostering a supportive environment where everyone can manage their professional and personal responsibilities, and thrive.

Reimagine Your Flexible Arrangements

Introduce Inclusive Policies

A large part of making flexible working align with all individuals is to reimagine policies to be more inclusive and make arrangements adaptable to different circumstances.

Companies need to establish a clear, detailed, and inclusive flexible working policy that makes the process of how it will work easily understood by all employees.

This should also include revising outdated contracts and removing barriers, such as mandatory retirement policies. Instead, reimagine processes, including phased retirement strategies, to help older employees adjust and manage their wellbeing.

Importantly, review and adapt processes as you learn more, measuring employee performance, task completion, and training, as well as employee feedback. This way, you gain an understanding of where needs are not being met across different employees or even departments.

But policies are just one piece of the puzzle. What truly drives successful flexible working is fostering a flexible mindset among employees and leaders alike.

Invest in Human Skills

Empathy serves as a cornerstone of a flexible mindset, fostering strong relationships, trust, and inclusivity within hybrid teams.

By prioritising investment in your team’s human skills and fostering effective communication, companies nurture high-performing teams who are better equipped to understand and respond to the needs, concerns, and perspectives of colleagues. Creating a culture where individuals are seen and valued as human beings, rather than just work colleagues, fosters trust, collaboration, and mutual respect.

Effective empathy skills are particularly important for driving productivity within teams. Equipping employees with the tools and techniques to communicate effectively, resolve conflicts, and manage flexible working arrangements will drive team performance and foster the development of transferable skills.

Encourage Flexible Mindsets of Curiosity and Empathy

Leverage Human Connections

Building genuine human connections within teams is fundamental for a collaborative, innovative, and resilient workforce. By fostering a sense of belonging and inclusion, employees at different stages in life feel supported, motivated, and inspired to achieve shared goals.

For instance, employees nearing retirement may seek flexibility to gradually transition out of the workforce while maintaining their contributions and sense of purpose. On the other hand, as younger employees seek to establish their careers, they may value maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Equally, employees at different stages in life have unique interests and aspirations, driving their curiosity to learn and develop different skills. Recognising and accommodating these diverse needs leads to increased engagement, with employees more likely to contribute ideas and work together effectively.

Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives also ensures that all team members feel valued, respected, and included, regardless of their location or working arrangement. By prioritising adaptability, empathy, and human connection, companies leverage a supportive and inclusive environment where remote and hybrid teams thrive.

Build Team Environments

Building trust between employers and employees is essential for successful, flexible working. Encourage open and transparent communication, set clear working expectations and frameworks, and shift focus to being results-based rather than hours worked.

Empower employees to take ownership of their work and hold themselves accountable for delivering results, with strong support systems in place to ensure they can cope with their workloads and deadlines. Utilise digital communication tools and platforms to facilitate seamless collaboration and project updates, as to build a culture that values innovation and teamwork.

Additionally, prioritise resources that support employee wellbeing and mental health by recognising the importance of holistic support in building a flexible and resilient workforce. Stimulating flexible mindsets among employees allows everyone to adapt to change effectively and achieve greater success in today’s work landscape.

Raise Your Human Game with POINT3 Wellbeing

Flexible working arrangements offer opportunities for greater autonomy, work-life balance, and productivity, but they require organisations to invest in the human skills needed, communication, and relationships essential for success in a hybrid environment.

Join us on our mission to help businesses build high-performing and healthy teams through the power of human connection. Together, we can create solutions to the many challenges employees face so they can perform to their highest potential at work.

At POINT3, we work with people and businesses to make the greatest impact on your business by focusing on your people. Our innovative human skills training is tailored to provide support that motivates, educates, and energises employees, managers and leaders.

Reach out to our team to discover how you can Raise Your Human Game.