Charlotte Flatman, head of learning and development with Colchester-based recruitment, training and human resources experts SVC Solutions recruitment, speaks about a new generation of flexible working.
Before the Covid pandemic, the daily trudge into the office was the norm. Commuters were packed like sardines into trains or sat in their cars in queues of traffic while they made their way to their offices. There was some remote working, thanks to advancements in technology, but the culture was very much one of office-based working.
Then Covid hit in 2020 and with it came lockdowns. Suddenly everything changed and now remote or hybrid working is a far more established practice. In fact, working from home and flexible working arrangements are now included on many job specifications.
Charlotte explains: “I think prior to the pandemic it was rare to find an employer who was prepared to allow the flexibility of working from home or a hybrid approach (the balance between working at home and in the office). Now, more and more there is an expectation for remote working and occasionally going into the office.
“People’s priorities have also changed. Previously, they were doing a two-hour commute each way to work every day but they found themselves still doing an effective job from home and finding they had more family time. They were also saving money on travel.
“It showed you don’t have to travel to work to be successful. As a result of this experience, there has been a shift in people’s expectations. There are certainly advantages for the employee – it saves time in travelling to give them a better work life balance and there is a cost saving.
“However, there are also disadvantages. There are some people who felt quite lonely and isolated working from home. It also leads to some difficulties when you are trying to integrate new members of staff. It is far harder to teach skills remotely than when you are together in an office environment and collaboration is far easier when people are together.”
Charlotte has also experienced how working from home can present challenges to employers in how they monitor their employees’ work and keep them motivated.
“Home working does not work for everyone,” adds Charlotte. “There are some people who like to go to work and them come home and leave it behind. They like the place distinction.
“I think the key to success for the home or hybrid working relationship is how it is set up and monitored. There has to be some structure behind it, some targets, even in a flexible arrangement, and that flexibility must work both ways.
“There is definitely a change in culture and people’s expectations. People no longer want to do 40 hours of work in an office. Home working or hybrid working is undoubtedly the way the employment market is going.
“I think, in reality, there were lots of organisations which did adopt the new approach to working prior to Covid, so we were always heading towards that relationship. The pandemic has pushed us on ten years overnight.”