Flexible working is gaining popularity in businesses, even among managers

Remote working is generally perceived as a real asset for a company's "employer" brand. — Photography visualspace/Getty Images/AFP Relaxnews

The pandemic helped make working from home more widespread and, by extension, allowed for more flexible work patterns. For a long time, these new ways of organizing work were frowned upon by managers, although attitudes are changing.

Such are the findings of a report conducted jointly by the British universities of Birmingham and York, as part of the Equal Parenting Project. The two institutions surveyed 597 managers living in the UK about flexibility in the workplace. Most of them are in favor of offering their employees the possibility to adapt their working hours and location to their personal needs and requirements.

Managers are particularly enthusiastic about remote working, with 51.8% of respondents saying that working from home improves employee concentration. It even makes them more productive (59.5%) and motivated (62.8%). However, many managers still think that flexible working can weaken the bond between employees and their company. Plus, some 56.4% think that the rise of hybrid work set-ups can lead to a feeling of isolation, even loneliness, among some remote workers.

Despite this, remote working is generally seen as a real asset to a company's "employer" brand, as are flexible working hours. Gone is the 9-to-5 schedule that Dolly Parton sang about, as flexible hours are now available in many organizations. This asynchronous approach to work has been common in English-speaking countries since the 2020s, notably thanks to the development of cloud computing technology, allowing remote access to data and apps over the internet. It is now gaining ground all over the world, driven by employees who want to maintain a better work-life balance.

Long working hours

But what about managers? How do they perceive the new expectations of their employees regarding their work schedules? Much more positively than you might think. About 44% of them think that more flexible working arrangements, such as a four-day week or part-time work, contribute to making employees more productive. "Managers have become much more positive about flexible working as a result of Covid-19, but they are still more likely to support flexitime and homeworking than other types of flexible working, such as part-time and job shares, which are more likely to be used by women," said Dr Holly Birkett from the University of Birmingham Business School and Dr Sarah Forbes from the University of York, co-authors of the report, in a statement.

However, there are still some obstacles to the widespread generalization of flexible work. The first is long working hours. This tradition continues to prevail in many companies, despite harmful consequences for the physical and mental health of employees. Some managers even see it as a mandatory part of an employee's career (41.9%). In addition, there is the issue of employee supervision. The move to working from home has often been accompanied by an increased surveillance of remote employees. However, 64% of managers admit that the use of tools to step up employee surveillance serves to increase their own stress levels. – AFP Relaxnews

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