By Alexander Dick, CEO of Alexander Lyons Solutions
For many white-collar workers, the idea of working from home used to be an aspiration enjoyed by a select few, rather than an everyday reality.
In plenty of cases, bosses were reluctant to dip their toes into the remote working pool, for fear that doing so could have a harmful impact on team efficiency and cohesion. However, with the advent of COVID, employers the world over were forced to put their reservations about remote working to one side, so as to ensure their staff could carry out their duties and maintain some semblance of ‘business as usual’.
The results of this imposed ‘experiment’ were far more promising than many business leaders could have expected. Output-per-hour worked was 2.3% above the 2019 average in the last quarter of 2021, according to the Office for National Statistics [ONS]. This is also in line with the findings of a Skynova survey that concluded that working from home has made employees feel more productive, reduced feelings of burnout, and improved their mental health.
With such clear benefits – from both a productivity and wellbeing perspective- it is completely understandable that so many people are keen to continue working remotely, either full-time, or on a hybrid basis. You would expect then that bosses would take advantage of the hybrid working model on a permanent basis and make it a key selling point to prospective candidates.
Bosses are taking a carrot and stick approach to remote working
Unfortunately, while many employers are saying they offer remote working in a bid to attract and retain top talent, many are merely being economical with the truth. This is corroborated by a recent report in the Wall Street Journal which reported a growing bait-and-switch trend – companies advertising a job as being ‘fully remote’, when in reality it is either partially remote or not remote at all.
This is where the issue of morality comes in. It is, in my mind, simply amoral to dupe jobseekers into interviewing for – or, in some cases I’ve heard of recently, accepting – a position on the false pretence that they will be able to work remotely, especially given how widespread such roles have become. It is also a sure-fire way to lose trust. If someone is looking for a remote job, they should be able to do so without dealing with unscrupulous and dishonest employers dangling a carrot that will inevitably be snatched away once the contracts are put together.
It may come as a harsh reality-check for some businesses, but the fact of the matter is that working from home has become the norm for many workers, and organisations that do not give employees the opportunity to work flexibly are likely to find themselves right at the back of the queue. Of course, bosses certainly have the right to stick their heads in the sand if they want to, but it’s not a very sensible move. As remote working becomes increasingly popular and normalised, people will refuse to settle for less.
Employee preferences need to be catered for
Workplaces that are unwilling to adapt to hybrid working trends run the risk of being branded outdated. As we’ve seen in many cases – does the name Tesla ring a bell? – companies that refuse to change coursewill lose top talent to their competitors in the best case and, at worst , become obsolete. The best thing that bosses can do is take a ‘best-of-both-worlds’ approach to remote working. If staff members feel that they are able to do their jobs, they should be able to do this. Conversely, if they want to be in the office, the opportunity should be there as well. It is not sustainable or sensible to lie to candidates about their working arrangements, as employers who insist on doing so will surely find.
The rise of flexible working has undoubtedly been positive for the UK, and has enabled many businesses to stay afloat during unprecedently turbulent times – allwhile affording employees a far better work/life balance than they could ever have envisaged. Firms should therefore seek to move with the times by offering the choice to work remotely, thereby promoting trust, transparency, productivity, and wellbeing across their entire organisation.
And, I think it goes without saying: if they’re not willing to do that, they should stop pretending that they are.