We Ask the Experts

What should HR watch out for in terms of flexible working?

Coty Premier Foods Ellas Kitchen

Flexible working is likely to be, if it isn’t already, the next battleground for how work is defined and structured. And, already, there is a disconnect between what employers and employees imagine will happen. According to a recent survey from Willis Towers Watson, while employers expect the proportion of their employees working primarily remotely will drop from 67% now to 26% in three years, 71% of UK workers want flexible work options to stay post-pandemic, according to Microsoft figures.

Whilst flexible doesn’t necessarily mean remote, what the last 18 months of increased remoteness has done for many employees is allow them to experience different working structures – largely enforced by the Government – and, as a result, many now expect their employers to deliver a variety of options for work in the future.

With flexibility high up the employee wishlist, many now expect some variety regards being remote or in a central location, or even flexibility regards time – as Dropbox are doing. For HR it could be a headache to make it work if they don’t think about the impact flexible could have – and many do believe being more flexible is the way forward – both strategically and operationally.

To find out what HR should be on the lookout for in terms of flexible working, mygrapevine magazine caught up with three of our Advisory Board members. Their advice is below.

Andrea Smith, HR Director, Transformation UK&I, Coty

Creating a sense of community and belonging in the workplace is a sustainable part of having an engaging culture. As most organisations move towards a more flexible way of working, there needs to be a balanced approach to working remotely and maintaining a central place of work that people can attend on a regular basis, in order to build a culture and foster strong working relationships.

A mental wellbeing strategy continues to be an HR priority through the increased use of digital technology and the danger of having an ‘always on’ culture through homeworking. Zoom or Teams fatigue and back pain from sitting for longer periods of time is real, so encouraging employees to create boundaries between work and home life is important.

We should be promoting more flexible solutions in the workplace that is just not providing a desk in the office or a home workstation. Reconfiguring office space that promotes areas for teamwork, collaboration and cultural activities, as well as providing quiet work hubs and hot desks for individual work, is a way that demonstrates a commitment to having flexible working options and contributes to organisational adaptability.

Around 85% of employees would like to work remotely at least two or three days per week post-pandemic, with the remaining portion of the work week spent in the office – CBRE

Around 85% of employees would like to work remotely at least two or three days per week post-pandemic, with the remaining portion of the work week spent in the office – CBRE

Andrea Smith, HR Director, Transformation UK&I, Coty

Creating a sense of community and belonging in the workplace is a sustainable part of having an engaging culture. As most organisations move towards a more flexible way of working, there needs to be a balanced approach to working remotely and maintaining a central place of work that people can attend on a regular basis, in order to build a culture and foster strong working relationships.

A mental wellbeing strategy continues to be an HR priority through the increased use of digital technology and the danger of having an ‘always on’ culture through homeworking. Zoom or Teams fatigue and back pain from sitting for longer period of time is real, so encouraging employees to create boundaries between work and home life is important.

We should be promoting more flexible solutions in the workplace that is just not providing a desk in the office or a home workstation. Reconfiguring office space that promotes areas for teamwork, collaboration and cultural activities, as well providing quiet work hubs and hot desks for individual work, is a way that demonstrates a commitment to having flexible working options and contributes to organisational adaptability.

Over half of staff globally would quit their jobs if not provided with post-pandemic flexibility – EY’s 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey

David Wilkinson, HR & Communications Director, Premier Foods

It is important to recognise that colleagues have a right to request flexible working, so companies need to support this if they want to remain competitive and attract a diverse range of candidates, while also retaining the talent they already have.

In the new ‘post-COVID’ world, where many (but not all) colleagues have become used to working in a more flexible way, HR teams need to balance the needs of the individual with the requirements of the organisation. These can certainly go hand in hand, but it requires time and effort to get it right and to the benefit of all involved. While it would in many ways be simpler to stick to tried and tested working practices, the successful businesses of the future need to have a more agile approach to work.

HR teams need to embrace the opportunity to take a more flexible approach, listen to colleagues and trust leaders to manage this once-in-a-generation change, whilst providing guidance, support and thought leadership to make the change a lasting success.

Over half of staff globally would quit their jobs if not provided with post-pandemic flexibility – EY’s 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey

David Wilkinson, HR & Communications Director, Premier Foods

It is important to recognise that colleagues have a right to request flexible working, so companies need to support this if they want to remain competitive and attract a diverse range of candidates, while also retaining the talent they already have.

In the new ‘post-COVID’ world, where many (but not all) colleagues have become used to working in a more flexible way, HR teams need to balance the needs of the individual with the requirements of the organisation. These can certainly go hand in hand, but it requires time and effort to get right and to the benefit of all involved. While it would in many ways be simpler to stick to tried and tested working practices, the successful businesses of the future need to have a more agile approach to work.

HR teams need to embrace the opportunity to take a more flexible approach, listen to colleagues and trust leaders to manage this once-in-a-generation change, whilst providing guidance, support and thought leadership to make the change a lasting success.

Catherine Allen, Head of Making People Happy, Ella’s Kitchen

One size doesn’t fit all in hybrid working. We all have varied working styles, all sorts of domestic set ups and distinct roles. Work with individuals to balance their wellbeing, the company culture, and the needs of the business. In HR we love to be fair, but fair doesn’t mean everyone doing exactly the same.

Everyone should have the chance to work more flexibly but that means different things to different people. For hybrid working to be successful, we need to let go of this misconception and embrace diverse ways of working across the team, don’t commit to rules and solutions too early – none of us have the answers – whatever hybrid working set up you go for make it a trial before you finalise new ways of working.

Finishing early on a Friday is the most desired work perk among UK employees – Sodexo Engage

Finishing early on a Friday is the most desired work perk among UK employees – Sodexo Engage

Catherine Allen, Head of Making People Happy, Ella’s Kitchen

One size doesn’t fit all in hybrid working. We all have varied working styles, all sorts of domestic set ups and distinct roles. Work with individuals to balance their wellbeing, the company culture, and the needs of the business. In HR we love to be fair, but fair doesn’t mean everyone doing exactly the same.

Everyone should have the chance to work more flexibly but that means different things to different people. For hybrid working to be successful, we need to let go of this misconception and embrace diverse ways of working across the team, don’t commit to rules and solutions too early – none of us have the answers – whatever hybrid working set up you go for make it a trial before you finalise new ways of working.

Next time we'll be asking the experts about wellbeing, so if you've got a burning question let us know below: