Two years on, we are still in the grips of a pandemic, and its unpredictability continues to affect business management trends.
This unpredictability continues: we’ve just had nearly two months of guidance to work from home rather than going into the office. Whilst I believe companies must trust their employees to know what is best for them with flexible working, I’m struck by the impact this is having on young people in particular.
The latest variant and return to home working has been a blow for many young people who graduated during the pandemic and were getting used to going to the office and meeting new co- workers.
We know that the shift in working patterns since the pandemic is affecting different people in different ways. Many have welcomed remote working after the worst of lockdown and home schooling has ended, but young people have struggled with being unable to access face to face training, direct contact with managers or just being able to socialise with colleagues.
Many graduates are working and living in the same four walls, with some even making do from their beds. Unsurprisingly this is having an impact on their mental health with half of 17 to 23-year- olds saying their mental health has got worse.
At Sage, we’ve introduced a flexible, hybrid approach to how, where and when we work. As part of this, we’re reimagining our offices as ‘work hubs’ that enable colleagues to collaborate and innovate, or find a quiet space if they struggle to do that at home. We’re also offering colleagues the opportunity to work away from their home country for up to 10 weeks per year to support their wellbeing and provide more flexible options to balance work and travel.
We recognise that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to flexible working and know that we must continue to ensure we put young people at the heart of our policies too. So we’ve created a flexible framework, within which teams decide the specific ways of working that will best support them to collectively deliver for customers and the business.
Once the pandemic is over, companies must find ways of working that strike the right balance and deliver the best outcomes for the business, its customers and its people.
Ultimately the pandemic has led to the greatest flux in the employment market in living history and the Great Resignation has involved record levels of people leaving their jobs since the last lockdown. With more vacancies in the UK than ever before, the power balance has tipped towards workers instead of employers. Generation Z is now the biggest population in the employment market, and it will be particularly crucial to keep this group of people happy to attract the best talent in the future.
A recent global survey from Microsoft revealed that 73% of employees want flexible work options to continue after the pandemic. Whilst in our own research with small and medium businesses, almost half said that employee health and wellbeing was a top priority. This highlights a greater focus on supporting employees and ensuring their welfare is sustained. We believe that flexible working is the way to make that happen.
Ultimately, these important decisions are in the hands of individual businesses. Should they choose to adopt more flexible strategies of employment and encourage flexibility, they will find themselves in the best position to thrive. Those businesses that don’t consider the diversity in their workforce and the need for a hybrid approach to work will be left behind in the competition for talent.