One-size-fits-none | Proximity bias + discrimination = the new issues arising from flexible working

Proximity bias + discrimination = the new issues arising from flexible working

Deep Dive

Hybrid working is cheaper, fairer, and more progressive than office-focused modes of operation. But what about those who are struggling to make it work? And what about bosses who are still giving preference to in-person attendance?

The benefits of hybrid and flexible working are myriad: better work-life balance, environmental benefits as we all cut down on commuting and, according to CIPD research, higher levels of motivation.

But with as many problems as it’s solved, hybrid working has created a few unique issues. The main question is whether organisations should apply an ‘across the board’ policy, or if the answers lies more in tailoring flexible work arrangements to each employee’s individual circumstance is the best approach. The answer, as ever, is most likely to be, “Both”.

For example, for women, who bear a disproportionate amount of the mental load and physical labour of child-rearing, caring for dependent relatives and housework, might need to stay home more often than, say, a childless 20-something who lives near the office and wants the buzz and camaraderie.

Speaking to HR Grapevine about the four-day work week – just one iteration of flexible working – Nichola Johnson-Marshall, founder consultancy Working Wonder, said: “This way of working can lead to unnecessary pressure as they struggle to squeeze the working week in, made even more stressful due to a sometimes lack of empathy from other colleagues not working the same way.”

She continues: “I think that a better solution would be to empower each individual employee to design their own preferred working pattern and encourage employers to be willing to have a supportive conversation with them about it. I believe that once employees feel trusted and empowered to work in a way that works for them, their productivity and work happiness will continue to thrive.”

Many underrepresented groups...may have also seen the recent hybrid switch as a protectionist opportunity.

Marginalised groups prefer hybrid working

Future Forum’s July 2022 Pulse Report (US-based worker survey data) shows that underrepresented minority groups vastly prefer flexibility to other working arrangements. In addition, while only 50% of working fathers surveyed wanted the option of two-to-three days per week outside the office/at home, 83% of working moms now want location flexibility – “an all-time high since Future Forum started surveying in summer 2020,” according to the report.

Karl Breeze, CEO at hybrid working technology company Matrix Booking, gathers insight as part of his remit providing flexible working arrangements and technology for companies.

There's still 68% of the article to go - plus lots more!

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