A word from our founder on the flexible working debate

  • Working Time
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Peter Done

Peter Done, Group Managing Director and Founder

(Last updated )

Flexible working – is it dividing the nation? This is a big question in the media. And with more studies delving into why employees are looking for remote and hybrid-based roles, it seems many employers are pushing for a return to the office.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, remote working has become a norm for many companies. And greater flexibility has become a welcomed job perk.

There are lots of reported reasons why employees want flexible working. Whether it’s to scrap a lengthy commute, save money or support childcare commitments – preferences are down to the individual.

What I think is important to take from this ongoing debate is why employees are resisting a return to the office. And it may be better to address this by looking at what workplaces aren’t offering. Not just what a flexible arrangement does.

It’s about asking the difficult questions. What might deter an employee from coming into work? Is it the pressure of the environment? Are colleagues creating a bad atmosphere? Issues like this are sure to make home working seem like a healthier and happier option.

This is obviously a low blow for employers who might be completely unaware of any issues. But the worst thing to do in this scenario is to point fingers or dwell on supposed failings. If there is a problem, what matters is how you fix it. Reassessing workloads and keeping an eye on stress levels may be the place to start.

There are also so many opportunities to show the value of coming into your workplace. What makes your work a great place to be?

If your team feel disconnected even when they’re physically together, there’s an issue. So, building that team connection and showing what makes that commute worth it is so important.

Equally, an employee’s desire to work remotely might not have anything to do with the work environment. An employee who wants to keep working from home might have their own personal reasons for doing so.

They might be experiencing an underlying mental health or physical condition. They might be, as mentioned, struggling to manage stress. That could be work stress, stress outside of work or both.

That’s why employee wellbeing should always be the priority. Employees need to feel supported and comfortable enough to reach out if they need to. You should remind your employees about your employee assistance programme (EAP) if you have one. Direct them to any other wellbeing support that’s on offer to them too.

Trust is everything for a working relationship – and it has to be earned.

I know there’s a lot to be said for focusing on building positive relationships and tuning in to employee concerns. And when employers can tap into this, this is how staff truly come to understand the value of their presence in the team.

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