In recent years, and particularly post-covid, flexible working arrangements became increasingly popular among in companies, offering a range of benefits to both employees and employers. Between 2020 and 2021, flexible working options leapt up by nearly one-tenth, and then a further 4% in the following year.
But fast forward to 2023 and this year’s Timewise Flexible Jobs Index indicates that flexible working options have grown by just 1%—with only 31% of job ads actually referencing flexibility. Alan Price, CEO BrightHR, shares his insight on this slowing trend: “We’ve seen workplace trends come and go. But none have flip-flopped quite so much as flexible working arrangements. Remote working looked like it was here to stay after the stay-home order in 2020 saw millions carry out their roles from their living room. And the launch of the world’s biggest four-day working week trial looked as though it was off to a promising start and poised the potential beginning of a new revolution.
“But now we’re seeing more and more businesses demand their staff to return to the office, including tech giants Google, Apple, and Meta. “It’s a far cry from the anticipated ‘new normal’ during the pandemic which saw workers all over the world putting more stock in their work-life balance, and businesses seemingly supporting this by offering flexi-time and/or the option to work from home, among several other supportive measures.
“The reasons behind the trend of reducing flexible work options may vary, but many companies cite concerns about productivity, collaboration, reduced visibility and communication among remote workers, and maintaining a consistent company culture. So, what does the future of work look like where flexible working is concerned?
“It seems more and more businesses are reversing their stance on flexible work arrangements. However, this does seem at odds, at least in the UK, with the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act which is likely to come into effect in 2024. The Act is set to give employees the right to request changes to the way they work twice a year. They will be able to request flexibility from day one of employment and make up to two requests a year. Employers will need to speed up their response times in dealing with requests, as that’s being reduced from three months to two. There are still eight reasons an employer can refuse such requests though. “It’ll certainly be interesting to see how organisations manage this new legislation, and what impact it will have when it comes to recruiting and retaining staff.”