Flexible working: Is this the end of the 9-to-5 working day?

Nelson Furtado - The Chemistry Group - on the rise in flexible working
By the time it?s safe for most to return to the office, it?s likely that many will have spent a year or more working from home. Here, Nelson Furtado, Senior Business Psychologist at The Chemistry Group, shares research findings on how the coronavirus pandemic has influenced how we work.

Despite the challenges – and there have been plenty of challenges – employees are aware of how possible it is to work effectively from home, adapting and learning new skills at an admirable clip.

This impressive resiliency is reflected in The Chemistry Group?s own research findings; 83% of surveyed workers reported that they have been able to successfully adapt their routine and 71% have been working effectively.

Increasing flexibility

As employees continue to adapt and implement extra flexibility, we could start to see the 9-to-5 working day become more fluid, with companies letting employees work from home two or more days per week; or employees choosing their own hours.

Some employers may even cut down to a four-day work week altogether.

This transition could help build more responsive organisations, with roles and structures designed around outcomes to increase agility.

A Gartner organisation design survey found that 55% of organisational redesigns were focused on streamlining roles, supply chains and workflows to increase efficiency.

While this approach seeks to maximise efficiency, it may limit flexibility to respond to disruptions. Here, it?s important to consider the business context – as we say at Chemistry, ?context is everything? – and such an approach is challenging in today?s contingent context.

?In 2021, resilient organisations require flexibility to adapt and change course quickly.?

Teams have adapted

At Chemistry we also observed increased resilience and adaptability team-wise as well, with over 80% of workers seeing their teams working effectively and adjusting their social interactions accordingly.

This high level of adaptability (also found by Ethan Bernstein and colleagues) is particularly encouraging as it suggests the availability of useful strategies that help workers adjust to this new work environment.

For instance, workers and teams have adapted by re-evaluating their approaches to communication and collaboration to accommodate both individual engagement needs with practical opportunities to embrace flexibility.

There hasn?t been a one-size-fits-all solution – some teams have adopted new virtual daily stand-up meetings to keep colleagues connected and informed, while others have cut back on meetings and encouraged teams to collaborate asynchronously through shared documents and more written communication.

Improving work/life balance

With strategies like these under consideration, greater team flexibility could also allow employees to take on caregiving responsibilities without having to give up work.

Working parents, particularly single parents, who might have otherwise had to leave a role are able to stay in work.

?Our research found that more than three-quarters of workers surveyed responded that, since starting to work from home due to the UK?s first national lockdown, they were able to adequately balance work and home life.?

However, a third of respondents indicated that the time they devote to their jobs keeps them from participating equally in household responsibilities.

It?s apparent that the transition to working from home is not just about taking the daily routines of the office and replicating them at home – lest people end up having a presence at home, but not actually feeling present.

With calls from MPs for flexible working to be the default even before the pandemic hit, the pressure to amend Government legislation in line with more progressive ways of working continues and this is only going to increase. As change marches on, 2021 is the year for employers and leaders to fine-tune their flexible working process.

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