More people than ever are moving away from the 9 to 5 in favour of jobs that allow flexible working. According to conference call firm Powwownow, 75 per cent of UK employees would rather take a job that gives them the option to choose their own work schedule. This is a staggering 70 per cent more than in 2017, with Millennials being the most likely of all age groups to pick a job on this basis.
However, you don’t necessarily have to change jobs in order to benefit from flexible working. In the UK, all employees have the legal right to request flexible hours, not just parents and carers. The only stipulation is that you must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks in order to be eligible.
A recent study by work-life balance charity Working Families revealed that City firms such as Lloyds, Barclays and RBS were named in a list of the top 10 global businesses offering family-friendly policies and various flexible working practices. As a result of this change, it seems that employees are no longer guaranteed to be in the office at the same time and we’re moving towards a situation in which people are actively looking to spend less time in the office.
The four-day week
The days of pretending to look busy in the office might be coming to an end. Frances O’Grady, head of the Trades Union Congress, has championed the idea of having a four-day working week. In her annual conference speech she argued that technological change, for example automated tasks, need not be seen as a threat, but rather a boon for employees, leading to less time spent in the office overall and a more productive time while there.
Indeed, the kinds of tasks that can be automated are generally the least interesting ones, perhaps the ones that get in the way of doing the more challenging or creative work that makes us proud of doing a worthwhile job.
The scrutiny of the work-life balance all over the world is seeing some businesses and governments pioneering fewer office hours. The New Zealand estate management firm Perpetual Guardian has already trialled a four-day week, noting that productivity was observed to increase. They are now considering whether to make this change permanent. However, it seems that the expense of paying employees the same salaries has to be weighed up against any increase in productivity. O’Grady’s dream of a “four-day working week with decent pay for everyone” may be on hold for now, but it’s certainly an idea that has revolutionary potential.
As the stigma associated with working from home wanes and shared workspaces gain prominence, staying out of the traditional office environment has never been easier. The rise of outsourcing has seen companies trying to find effective ways of working with agencies and freelancers who they may only meet a handful of times, if at all. Working with regional and overseas offices also presents unique challenges to communication and collaboration with external contributors who are located in many different areas and time zones. As a consequence, technology’s role in bringing us together has never been more important. This is where an online workspace such as Dropbox Paper can help businesses to work creatively and share ideas in a clear, simple and secure way. The office no longer has to be a physical, intermittently accessible place. Now everyone can contribute to a project, wherever they may be in the world, at any time of day.
City A.M. and our partner Dropbox have collaborated on an editorial series which explores better ways of working. Read more at: cityam.com/workinflow.