Employers should still offer flexibility for staff who cannot work remotely

May 17, 2021

Flexible working has been well documented as being the big winner of the pandemic, changing the office landscape and the traditional 9 to 5 forever.

The BBC has recently released details of a report which in almost all of the UK’s 50 biggest employers said they do not plan to bring staff back to the office full time. That means no full-time return to the office for over a million people.

Anne Corder, of Peterborough-based Anne Corder Recruitment, said: “We are never going to go back to working the way we used to work, with once frowned-open phrases like ‘remote working’, ‘smart working’ and ‘flexible working’ now becoming commonplace in everyday business discussions.

“However, let’s not forget those people who thrive in an office environment, people who are isolated and live alone or others whose job or personal circumstances mean they simply cannot work from home.”

A drop in the take-up of flexi-time and part-time working as a result of the pandemic – according to figures from CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) – means many workers are missing out on the benefits of flexible working arrangements.

According to the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey of 74,832 people from October to December 2020 showed a decline in the use of all types of flexible hours arrangements, such as part-time, flexi-time and annualised hours.

Anne added: “We believe that employers should be thinking carefully about how they can ensure people who are unable to work from home can benefit from other flexible working options.

“This could include helping with the balancing of work/life commitments, the school run or home schooling, childcare – particularly as we fast approach the summer holidays and other childcare or caring responsibilities.

“We realise that while the shift to home working has been largely positive for many people, the decline in other forms of flexible working could prompt questions around fairness and equality for those who cannot work from home.

“Employers should not only see home working as the only flexible working arrangement available but consider offering and encouraging the uptake of a broad range of options that give opportunities for everyone to have more choice and flexibility in how they work.

“Flexible working in all its forms helps to attract and retain people, even more so in the current climate, with employers having tools at their figure tips to hang on to their good people and dip into an untapped pool of talent to find others for whom distance from the office is no longer a hurdle. It can also be good for wellbeing and productivity.

“What we want to avoid is a situation where the decline of flexible working take-up  could risk creating a ‘two tier’ workforce of those who can work from home, and those who need to attend a workplace and have little flexibility.”