Earlier this week, we reported that HSBC is planning to drastically cut back on its office space – by 40% globally – in a move towards more permanent flexible working arrangements.
Brought about “by a very different style of working post-Covid than we had before”, other banks have announced similar measures too. Standard Chartered, for example, moved to permanent flexible working in November 2020.
There is no doubt that the rise in home working during the pandemic has also seen many organisations outside the financial sector do the same. Besides allowing for a more agile workforce, the financial advantages for employers of having reduced office space are obvious. There are many other reasons why offering flexible working makes good business sense too – not least because it is great for employee wellbeing, which in turn can result in greater productivity.
Many employees have relied on flexible working arrangements to juggle caring responsibilities, while others have benefited from being able to achieve a better work-life balance. In fact, many workers are now so used to having this level of flexibility that to take it away in the future could potentially reduce employee engagement and motivation.
A report from Bright Horizons earlier this month warned that employers face an “iceberg of staff discontent”, if flexibility is removed once Covid-19 (Coronavirus) restrictions are over. Its Modern Families Index found workers overwhelmingly support the continuation of flexible hours and hybrid working.
What employers must remember, however, is that staff who work from home still need support from their managers, including regular check-ins, and employers should facilitate remote working in a way that makes it easy for employees.
Consideration must also be given to employees who may suffer from burnout or exhaustion as a result of extended working hours, particularly where staff aren’t taking the natural breaks they would if in an office environment.
Of course, it goes without saying that flexible working isn’t suitable for every organisation or indeed every individual, but it is interesting to note that where it was once a ‘nice-to-have’ privilege, it is now an expected opportunity among today’s workforces.