Ian Hodson: What role do employers have to play in helping employees work flexibly?

In reality, we have got to our new ways of working at an accelerated rate where the foundations of an operational infrastructure is being built for the ‘house’ that we are already living in. For me, the point to focus on is the aspect of flexibility as when we talk about whether individuals are working from home, hybrid or office based there is no right or wrong, it is really all about the preferences of the individual. The role of the employer is to, wherever feasible, remove the barriers in order to allow the individual to have the flexibility and the expression of their personal preference as to how, when and from where they deliver their role.

If there is one aspect that I don’t think individuals are willing to compromise on now, then it is a backwards step in the flexibility on how they deliver their role. This is why in labour markets we see roles that are more face-to-face service driven as having more challenges in the attraction of new employees and particularly with the millennials entering the workforce where being able to flex work and outside work activities is a really important driver when comparing roles and employer culture.

In the past we have been driven by equity and removing barriers to ensure that everyone can access the same thing. I believe that going forward the task will be that we need to deliver the same thing but in different ways, and ways of working will become a segmentation aspect when designing workforce solutions. This gives a huge opportunity for reward professionals to look at wellbeing, reward, communication and recognition programmes and look at them through the lens of different styles of working to consider how they may need to be adapted to achieve engagement.

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In my opinion taking backwards steps on flexibility around role delivery is a little concerning as it can negatively impact on an individual and their lifestyle and should only be done where all considerations around adjusting to make it work have been reviewed. Going forward, flexibility will be a huge driver for employee satisfaction and ultimately engagement, motivation and, therefore, output.

Ian Hodson is director of people and culture at Housing 21