Gone are the days of the nine-to-five, five-day work week, as rigid working patterns give way for greater workplace flexibility. The Covid-19 pandemic forced many to work from home, proving that an absence from the office doesn’t have to mean an absence of productivity, along with highlighting the benefits for work-life balance. 

After years of home working, we are now seeing an evolution to a new ‘new’ normal. With the introduction of the Flexible Working Bill,  workers now have the right to request flexible working arrangements from day one of a new job, and employers are required to consider these requests and provide a reason if they wish to reject them. 

Backed by employees, businesses, and the UK Government, it’s clear that flexibility at work is here to stay – but flexible work policies will continue to evolve as businesses look to balance options that will be best for their organisations with the preferences of their employees. Our recent Talent Trends Survey further amplifies this trend as 76% of workers said they seek hybrid / flexible working arrangements, flexible working hours (71%), and the ability to choose the days they work from the office (71%) when taking on a new role.  

What does workplace flexibility look like today?

It is easy to think about flexibility only in terms of work location, but this meaning has evolved post-pandemic and there’s no longer a one-size-fits-all when it comes to flexible working. In addition to remote and hybrid working, employers can offer:

  • Job-sharing: Two people share one job between them and split the hours
  • Part-time hours: Employees work fewer hours, usually through a reduction in working days
  • Compressed hours: Working full-time hours in fewer days, for example working 10 hours across four days, rather than eight hours across five days
  • Flexi-time: Employees can choose their start, finish, and break times throughout the working day, but usually works pre-agreed ‘core’ hours
  • Staggered hours: Employees have different start, finish, and break times from other workers

What works for some organisations and employees may not work for all, so an agile approach to flexibility is essential to maximise success – but it is a critical part of the new ‘new’ normal, and for good reason. The evidence for flexibility at work delivering better results in terms of retention, burnout and productivity is overwhelming. 

After the Government’s 4-day work week trial that took place between June and December 2022, more than half (55%) of project managers and CEOs said the change had a positive impact on their organisation. One year on, 89% were still operating the policy, with many reporting positive effects on staff wellbeing, reduced turnover, and improved recruitment.

Michael Page’s Talent Trends survey revealed that while salary is the top consideration when seeking a new job, job satisfaction comes from work-life balance for more than half (56%) of employees. This means that organisations must explore how to strike a balance to maintain a happy and productive workforce. 

Balancing business concern with employee demand

While a third (32%) of employees are now working in the office more than they did 12 months ago, very few are back five days a week. Three in five (58%) of those who have changed their working pattern in this way due to changes in company policy. While some businesses may deem this necessary, the impact on staff retention could be devastating, as 59% per cent are actively looking for a new role as a result of such changes. 

Additionally, more than half (52%) of employees now rank flexibility as most essential when accepting or applying for a role, with 76% agreeing that hybrid working is one of the most important aspects of flexibility. With that in mind, it is perhaps no surprise that 60% of businesses have found recruiting talent over the past 12 months difficult,  with 45% attributing this difficulty to the allure of a hybrid/flexible working arrangement among candidates.

Even in industries not traditionally flexible due to work, employees have the same demands. Around three in 10 workers in Manufacturing, Property & Construction and Logistics (72%, 54% and 69% respectively)  state they would like flexible working hours, and two in five (38%) of Property & Construction workers would also value hybrid working opportunities. 

Giving the people what they want

The demand for flexible hours, hybrid working, and other flexible policies amongst workers is just the tip of the iceberg. These more tangible changes signify what employees really want: autonomy. Employees want to have more control over their working pattern and what flexibility means to them. For example, 71% want to be able to choose the days they work from home. 

Given employees’ desire for choice and the benefits of offering flexible work policies, the importance of flexibility in the workplace cannot be understated. The businesses that will succeed when it comes to motivating, attracting, and retaining talent in the current landscape are those that embrace the new realm of flexibility, and allow employees the flexibility to choose the working patterns that work best for them and the business.

For more employee insights, check out our latest Talent Trends report, or request a call back from our team of experts. 
Discuss your hiring needs

Revamp your Employee Value Proposition

Learn how to revamp your employee value proposition to attract top talent.

Download your guide