The last 12 months has made many of us reconsider and / or really think about the way in which we live our lives, both professionally and personally outside of the workplace.  As talk turns once again to getting back to ‘normal’, people are considering what the return to work looks like when the Government advice no longer states “work from home if you can”.

Firstly, lets address the obvious. Not all companies’ ‘returns’ are going to look the same. Different companies have different requirements of their employees, especially across a variety of industries. In fact, as we know, some employees in certain industries are not ‘returning’ to work at all and have remained at work since the beginning of the pandemic.

There is now also talk about Flexible Working becoming the default, but what does that actually mean?

A lot of the focus is around the flexibility between working from home versus working from the ‘office’. However, there is so much more to flexible working than ‘where’ you are carrying out your duties.  There is also no ‘one size fits all’ options around flexibility will differ company to company and also role to role, depending on the responsibilities of the job at hand.

If you consider flexible working in terms of the current formal process, an employee has the right to request flexibility once they have 26 weeks continuous service under their belt. The request to work part-time, to change start and / or finish times, compress their hours or job-share are just some examples of this.

Should this become the default, companies are going to have to make huge considerations across the board to determine what their ‘Flexibility Package’ will look like, where this differs from role to role, and why. Where there are differences, employers will be required to demonstrate why particular roles are unsuitable for flexible working (considering a variety of flexibility options). For example, if an employee is requesting a night owl shift pattern of 8pm – midnight, and works in a Customer Call Centre whereby 100% of calls come through between 9am – 8pm, the company would clearly be able to demonstrate why this request was unreasonable for this role.

However, along with this are plenty of positives that actually align themselves with the world we are currently living in right now. Covid-19 has given us a firm elbow shove into a way of thinking that, in my opinion, we needed to be pushed in. It’s going to help employers engage with their employees in a different way, showing consideration for elements such as their work/life balance, personal responsibilities and also maximizing peak performance times.

My suggestion is to get ahead. Even without further information from the government, you can begin to consider what flexible working could mean for the business, how it can be approached and what flexibilities would be suitable in each role.

One phrase that always helps me is “the needle that breaks the fabric, is the same one that helps fix it” and sometimes we need to dismantle or pull something apart for us to think about piecing it back together in a different way.

As always, if you need any guidance around this topic, please call us on 01536 215240.

About the Author: Charlotte Batchelor

Charlotte Batchelor
Charlotte is one of Gateway HR & Training's HR Consultants. She holds a CIPD Level 5 Diploma in Human Resource Management and the amazing ability to lower clients’ stress levels over the phone in less time than it takes to make a cuppa. Charlotte is very creative and is an incredible artist and photographer.