Free to work

In our post The Great Reset, we highlighted how more people are thinking about the working conditions that allow them to bring their best selves to work. The pause point created by the pandemic has shed new light on what we can reasonably expect from our employers (and employees).

This post unpacks the conversations we can have with current and future employers to drive our own positive version of change. (We expect the last one to set a cat among the pigeons). We’d love to hear your thoughts.

  1. Flexible working conditions

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that, in the case of flexible work design, the impossible turns out to be possible after all. 

Managers have learned to design work differently, says the CIPD. Their recent employer survey showed 63% of respondents plan to introduce or expand hybrid work, where time in the workplace is combined with time at home, depending on the needs of the job, person, and team. Homeworking works better than we assumed.

Our enforced homeworking trial helped to fade perceived barriers and to focus our attention on what we can do to set up successful hybrid structures. These include:

  • Ensure effective task co-ordination and communication (set clear objectives and calibrate frequency of comms)
  • Pay attention to creative and problem-solving tasks (Does the tech work? When should we be face to face?)
  • Develop the skills to speak up and have conversations about wellbeing
  • Encourage boundary setting and routines that prevent overwork
  • Create more opportunities for co-working with other teams, and for networking to support informal learning
  • Build in time for team cohesion and organisational belonging.

How good is your employer, or are you, at setting up the conditions for successful hybrid work? How can you support the shift to hybrid, by looking at the strategies listed above?

2. A sense of belonging

Environments where we feel a sense of belonging and can contribute in a meaningful way are good for humans and good for business. Employees benefit from more raises and more promotions, and they recommend their organisation as a place to work more (167% net promoter score increase). There is also a 75% reduction in sick days and a 50% drop in turnover risk.

When we feel excluded, we can also self-sabotage and team sabotage, as we tend to expend less effort.

Does your current or future employer encourage workers to speak up and share ideas? How? Do they value you for your strengths? What policies or processes are in place for this to happen? Is there any commitment to or evidence of mentoring and/or sponsorship in the organisation?

3. Shorter working hours

Finally, what about shorter working hours?

A study of 2,500 workers by UK think tank Autonomy and Iceland’s Association for Sustainability and Democracy showed that reducing the working week to around 35 hours without reducing pay led to positive benefits for all. Well-being improved with reports of better work-life balance, lower stress levels, and less burnout. Productivity and service provision did not decline, rather they remained steady and, in some cases, even increased.

The two trials of the study were conducted in Iceland, but Jack Kellam (researcher at Autonomy), has noted that in the UK, workers have some of the longest hours in Europe and that Covid has stretched the day for many. Trade Unions in Iceland lobbied for a reduction in working hours, with the successful results of 86% of Iceland’s population shortening or gaining the right to shorten their working hours. UK workers urgently need a reset of their working hours, says Kellam.

In November 2021 the digital challenger Atom Bank announced a four-day working week, without cutting pay. At the moment it’s a trial, but expected benefits include improved work-life balance, a greater focus on health and well-being, reduced environmental impact, and increased efficiency and productivity.

We recognise that work as we know it has changed, and the patterns that served us in the past may no longer be the right fit. People are looking for something more from their roles, work practices have changed and we believe that switching to a four-day working week can deliver a variety of benefits that have the potential to be life-changing for our team.

Anne-Marie Lister, Atom Bank

Is a shortened working week something that you can drive in your context? What impact do you think it might have?

Insights from The Great Reset could lead us to drive our own versions of positive change. Both employers and employees can play a role in creating supportive and inclusive environments where more of us are free to do our best work.

Looking for a reliable, transparent, and honest advisor to make your next Rec2Rec move? At Round, we offer a candid, down-to-earth approach that starts with finding out more about you (read about that here) and is supported by our much-loved Round Candidate Charter.

Connect with Geoff, Founder of Round Recruitment:

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