The first session of our Digital Peer Network got off with a discussion on hybrid and flexible working. Throughout the pandemic many of us have been able to, and indeed required to work from home. Overnight the world changed and those who had advocated that much work coil be done remotely were vindicated, up to a point.
As the virus waxes and wanes we have become obsessed once again about where we should work. Whilst restrictions were much looser in England than in previous waves, the message was sent out that you should work from home if you could. The other nations had stricter rules. At every opportunity to relax these restrictions however, we are encouraged to get back to the office.
I fear though, that the concepts of hybrid and flexible working have been lost in these discussions. It seems that we have moved from a steady state of working in the office to another, yet steady state of working from home. We have replaced the formal office with our own back bedroom.
Yet being hybrid or flexible is not working from home, it is about being able to work from a variety of appropriate locations that meet the needs of the business, its customers and its employees. If you need to work in an office, do so. If you don’t then go and work somewhere else, if that is what takes your fancy and it works for the business.
Offering flexibility is about accommodating the different work life balances that the employees face while allowing the business to flourish. Our days are no longer governed by the nine to five. Many retail shops are open for more than twelve hours a day and while shop workers will find it hard to argue for hybrid working, they are expected to be flexible in their hours.
My point here is that the mould is broken. The way that we work has changed, hopefully forever. No longer is it a question of where you work or how long your shift is but rather a balance between the multifarious needs of the businesses, the individuals, the consumers and society in general. Having options in a hybrid arrangement allows us to consider the real question:
Why do we work?.