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Working life is changing

It is not just technology which is changing how we work, or where we work, it is also people’s changing attitudes and expectations across the different generations within the workplace.

Millennials now have a more prominent role in the workplace and the running of many businesses, Generation Z, born after 2000 and the first to have grown up with the internet and social media, are now entering the workplace.

People are much more aware of the need to take care of their own personal physical and mental wellbeing. Flexible working structures can help to improve the wellbeing and work-life balance of employees and can also have a positive effect on their mental health in general.

A recent study published by Wildgoose in August 2019 highlighted 39% of individuals who work flexibly have seen a noticeable improvement in their mental health whilst 70% feel it helps them to maintain a good work-life balance.

Flexible working structures allow employees to have greater autonomy over their working hours, which can be beneficial for those who are also working carers or those with health conditions, so it is not just the young who can benefit.

Many businesses also have alternative leave policies which allow for life events and unexpected personal demands, leaving holiday allowances free for pure down time and relaxing. It requires a shift of traditional workplace culture and management attitudes however to make this successful, especially in more traditional firms and sectors.

It has been demonstrated that people who work more flexibly are happier and healthier and also take less time off sick and as their stress levels are better. This will also help to reduce the burden on co-workers and should have a positive impact on the productivity and profitability of any organisation.

Moving to more flexible working can also include arrangements regarding where employees choose to work – whether from home, remotely or in a job share arrangement, with two part-time employees fulfilling the tasks of a single full-time job.

Other options could include an annual hours arrangement. Employees would be free to set the number of hours over the whole year which would allow them to work longer hours during peak periods and cut back when there is less demand, or work hours which suits their family and or other lifestyle commitments.

Compressed hours allow employees to work their contracted time over a shorter period, ie working slightly longer days.

Another non-traditional working practice which is gaining in popularity is working a four-day week and additional ‘life leave’ on top of paid holidays for personal situations such as moving to a new house.

To successfully adopt a more flexible approach to work patterns means having the relevant policies and procedures in place which clarify what is available as well as training and ongoing support for managers. Holding a consultation with employees on what sort of changes to flexibility they would like see is a good starting point before taking the plunge.