Summer 2020 - Page 9

A large majority of independent workers in our joint research adopted flexible working by choice. Only 36 percent regarded it as a stop-gap solution. Most young flexible workers surveyed - some 82 percent of 18-26-year olds had aspired to a flexible working life, and 89 percent saw it as an attractive long-term path to follow. In addition, according to LinkedIn data, a growing number of highly-skilled professionals are embracing independent status as a rewarding career path. Labour market policies can be restrictive or even punitive, companies’ HR systems can be inflexible, education can still serve traditional employment models, and society can still place a stigma on independent workers. We clearly need to adopt a different mindset if we are to unleash the full benefits of the gig economy. A forced but positive step The world of work is constantly changing. Every day we celebrate new discoveries, products, services and design, pushing industries to do more, be more efficient, work smarter and provide better solutions. We celebrate doing things differently. Yet it has taken a global pandemic for organisations to realise that flexible and remote working can not only work but can generate a more productive, motivated workforce whilst also reducing office, transport and HR overheads. Obviously, some industries will find it easier to revise their working practices, for example tech giants and financial services due to their reliance on IT to operate. For example, Barclays are reviewing their need for a big city office after having over 70,000 employees across the country successfully work from home. Amazon, Google, Facebook, Spotify, WPP, RBS, Twitter and Mastercard have extended their working from home period past the social distancing easing timeline, with some offering it as a permanent option. These organisations have transformed overnight, overcoming resistance, tackling technical and cultural obstacles and adopting multiple new tools to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their workforce. One report, commissioned by Visier, found that three quarters of respondents believed their manager trusted them to work from home, with 68% feeling more or equally as productive and bringing hope to millions of working parents, carers and older workers across the country. That said, COVID-19 may not have convinced everyone that remote working is the future of work. The report polled 1,000 UK remote workers who usually work from home no more than once a week or not all, sadly found that 47% believed their employer would reverse the enforced move to remote working once the current pandemic is over and that 31% claimed new processes had been introduced to monitor output. In a recent Adecco Group study across more than 300 organisations, our results concluded that whilst 30% of respondents feel that more flexible working will become more commonplace for their business moving forwards, 33% felt this would not be the case, with the remaining (and majority) 57% still unsure as to whether this would become their working norm. Forced remote working however is not flexible working, there was no choice in the current situation. Anna Whitehouse (MotherPukka) and Joeli Brearley (Pregnant Then Screwed) are just some of those embroiled in the fight for a more productive and fulfilling work/life balance. For years they have led campaigns for more flexible working practices which have been met with tough resistance. From the strain it would place on technological infrastructure through to a reliance on presenteeism and a lack of trust, SMEs, global corporations and even Government have long argued against this new way of working. A recent survey conducted by Grazia and Instagram found that 54% of women aged 25-54 were beginning to think about making a change in their work/life balance since the start of lockdown, with 63% reconsidering their current arrangement. More importantly, 28% of women found that by being forced to work from home, juggling social and family life, is possible for them. Reduced hours, flexi time, split shifts, job shares, both temporary and permanent, as lockdown eases and the economy begins to open up, organisations need to be prepared for the increase in flexible working requests as employees have proven this new way of working can and will work.