The pandemic is temporary, but is flexible working here to stay?

One result of many employees working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is that flexible working arrangements are at the forefront of both employers’ and employees’ minds.

There are many benefits of flexible working for employees, such as a better work/life balance, less time and money spent commuting, and the ability to juggle work and caring responsibilities more easily. Employers can also benefit from flexible working – for example, by saving on rent, seeing improved staff morale and potentially increased productivity. However, there are also challenges with remote working. During the pandemic, employees may have struggled to care for children during their normal working hours or suffered from a lack of adequate IT equipment. Employers may have found it more difficult to communicate with their staff and maintain good working relationships within teams.

Surveys conducted by HR group Adecco and childcare provider Bright Horizons have asked employees – especially parents – for their views on flexible working arrangements. Results show that a combination of office-based and home-based working is sought by many people post lockdown. Some individuals now want to work remotely full-time, and only a small minority want to return to the office full-time. Reflecting on their experiences during lockdown, the majority of employees felt that they were more productive working from home and now feel a sense of loyalty to their employer for allowing flexibility. However, some respondents felt that while childcare responsibilities are more easily catered for when working from home, having children in the house made it more difficult to work their usual hours, which for some individuals meant a move to working anti-social hours.

While the pandemic forced many employers to adapt quickly to staff working remotely, it seems inevitable that this move towards flexible working will continue to have implications long after COVID-19 ceases to be a concern. As lockdown measures ease, many employers are now considering what their working model should look like going forward. Although mass remote working has had its challenges, most employers appear to have been successful in overcoming these.  That ought to allow the benefits of flexible working for both employees and employers to be carried forward into life after lockdown. 

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Emily Shaw

About Emily Shaw

Emily Shaw is an associate in Dentons’ Glasgow office. She is a member of the People, Reward and Mobility practice group. Emily focuses on a wide range of UK employment law issues. She has experience in acting for both employers and employees, covering both contentious and non-contentious work. Emily's experience includes: reviewing contracts, company policies and procedures; assisting international businesses; coordinating multijurisdictional projects; and advising clients on exiting strategies.