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Now that COVID-19 restrictions are beginning to ease in many parts of the world, businesses and their workers are returning to a world of work that has changed irrevocably. Lockdowns and social distancing mandates forced employers and employees to adapt to a very different way of working. With life returning to normal but many workers resistant to the idea of returning to the office full-time, what can employers expect to face when trying to get their business back on track post-pandemic?
Tiger has been keeping a keen eye on the changing landscape, keeping abreast of trends and speaking to candidates and clients to gauge where the future of work is heading. Below we discuss some of the most potentially impactful trends, and what employers may need to consider to foster a happy and productive workforce going forward:
Hybrid working and flexible hours
While the idea of flexible working has been around for many years with proven benefits to employee engagement, a new era of ‘hybrid working’ is emerging now that employers are encouraging staff to return to office. There are many perceived benefits of employees working on-site, including increased collaboration and productivity, and there’s been recent concerns that those working from home tend to clock more unpaid overtime hours than those on-site.
However, businesses will likely have their work cut out for them as a whopping 74% of professionals expect working from home to become standard practice, and 97% have expressed that they simply do not want to return to the office 5 days a week. Employees have come to attribute flexible hybrid models to a better work/life balance and overall improved wellbeing, particularly for working parents.
The reality is that the desire for flexible hours and a balance of days working from home is shattering any hopes of returning to the traditional working week. Soon, trend-setting companies will begin to make headlines with their new trail-blazing hybrid working models. For example, in late August 2021, Canva revealed that following some internal research, they are committing to a flexible working model that requires their employees to visit the office a mere 8 times a year.
Flexibility across the board will undoubtedly become a major employee benefit, perhaps even an expectation, and businesses should consider this if they wish to attract, engage and retain their workforce in the coming years.
Similarly, the concept of a 4-day week is nothing new, with companies in Japan, New Zealand, Iceland and Denmark having all trialled various versions of a shorter working week in recent years.
Positive feedback led us to believe that the trend would likely continue, until the pandemic hit and forced most people into remote working. With things back on track, the lure of a shorter week has returned. It could be that employers are more open to change now that the pandemic has proved that businesses and staff can adapt well to new working structures, or that employees are gaining confidence to seek working patterns that will promote a better work/life balance post-pandemic.
The idea of a 4-day week is unsurprisingly a hit with employees, and businesses will certainly enjoy the benefits of engaged and loyal staff as well as more practical things like reduced power bills. However, there are still some important aspects for employers to take into consideration. Would there be extra costs involved to employ extra staff to offset reduced hours? Would they keep the standard 37.5 hour week or increase to four 10 hour days? Would they need to invest in technology/software to accommodate this new working model? Would productivity and profit take a hit?
To offset some of these considerations, there have been mostly promising statistics around productivity, reduced stress levels and generally improved employee wellbeing that are driving this new idea forward. In 2019, Microsoft tested a 4-day working week in Japan with great success, leading to a 40% increase in productivity and an employee approval rate of over 90%. In March 2021, Spain announced plans to pilot a 32 hour work week and Scotland unveiled plans in August to trial a 4-day week without loss of compensation.
Vaccinating your workforce
As COVID-19 continues to rage across the globe, vaccinations are our most valuable tool in turning the tide against the virus. Employers have a duty to cultivate a safe office environment for workers to return to, so keeping on top of national COVID-19 guidelines and encouraging workers to get vaccinated is naturally a big focus for businesses going forward.
There are some pertinent questions being asked by HR departments about how to best navigate vaccination hesitancy to best protect their workforce over the next few years. Will or can employers begin making it compulsory for their employees to be fully vaccinated? What are the best ways to encourage workers to get the vaccine?
The answer is most likely that there is no one way to achieve a fully vaccinated workforce and businesses will have to develop and continuously adapt their strategies, most likely for years to come. CIPD has put together a useful guide for employers on how they can prepare and protect their staff against COVID-19 for the coming months.
If you need support with increasing your workforce in this post-pandemic climate, please get in touch with details of any permanent, temporary, virtual or contract staffing requirements.