Flexibility (Not WFH) is What Matters

If you hang out on LinkedIn much these days you'll find it hard to escape from posts claiming that businesses that cannot operate with a fully remote-working model are in the dark ages and stand zero chance of being able to attract and retain good people.

But anyone who's talking to job seekers daily will tell you that the truth is very different to what you might be absorbing from the media daily.

The key to attraction and retention is flexibility.

That's not to say that there are individuals who are demanding remote work, feeling empowered in a marketplace short of active job-seekers. Whether they are finding that fully remote model is another matter, and will be determined in part by what they do for a living.

Remote working will enable many disadvantaged people to access the workplace. People who have challenges around mobility, for example, who might have a physical disability or live in a rural location and rely on public transport.

And if you're programming computers it might be argued there's no need to attend the office frequently.

But, ultimately many businesses are feeling that the pendulum has swung in the favour of employees and that they are compromised in areas around cyber security and team-building with the sharing of ideas by allowing fully remote work.

And that's for business owners to decide, especially since we're hearing how much harder it is to manage people remotely.

What we are hearing at Clarity is almost exclusively - employees want flexibility.

"I don't want to work from home all the time"

As with all things, it's worth putting yourself into the shoes of others to understand challenges better. Real examples include:

  • I'm single and found working from home lonely.
  • I've found when WFH that the time between work and home has blurred so I'm doing much more unpaid work. I don't mind occasionally but it's become a problem.
  • I miss interacting with my colleagues. I understand the need to get my head down but that buzz is important to me.
  • How can I ever get to know and understand my manager/my team if I never see them?
  • I feel that communication has broken down since we all started WFH.
  • My kitchen table has been used as a desk for too long and I want it back.
  • My partner's job is remote and there isn't enough space for us to both work at home all week.
  • I have a health issue which is being managed, but it means a regular visit to a hospital. I cannot choose the day or time of my appointments and my current employer understands that every x number of weeks I will have a day that's a bit disruptive so they let me work from home those days.

I should add, that having recently spoken to a police officer and a children's mental health practitioner, for many people home is not a haven but a place where they face mental and physical harm. That safe place of work might be essential.

And these are unlikely to be people who speak out.

But it may help us to understand that WFH for us might be one experience, whilst WFH for another person might be something else entirely.

What does flexibility look like?

  • The ability to flex hours so I can pick the kids up from school/go to the gym at a time to suit and then come back to my desk later.
  • Trusted to work from home on specific days regularly or from time to time to get a piece of work done that needs me to focus, uninterrupted.
  • Able to be at home for a plumber without having to take annual leave because I can still work while they're here.
  • I want to share my parental responsibilities by managing my working week with my partner and making sure one of us is around when needed.
  • Being able to spend more time in the office when I need to focus. We have a young family and whilst I want to be around, working from home is virtually impossible some days.
  • I like being in the office but it's great to save the time and cost of the commute once or twice a week.
  • I loved fitting in two dog walks during the pandemic. I got fitter and feel better so I'd like the time to continue this habit.
  • In the hot weather when it's unbearable in my office past 3 pm, it's been great to start work early whilst it's cool, and finish up early.

If you're sure that remote working can't work well for your business, you must consider a flexible working model.

This WILL enable you to attract and retain the best people. What that looks like will very much depend on your business and even the jobs that individuals do within that business.

But if you can step into other people's shoes and consider how you might make life a little better for each of them, you're likely ahead of your competition.

Contact us now for a free, no-obligation chat. Contact Clare here.

Clare Wight is the founder and Managing Director of Clarity Appointments, an independent recruitment specialist. She was a Regional Director for The Employment Agents Movement, supporting other independent recruiters.

She remains an active member of Recconnect (formerly Members Only), a recruitment leadership network promoting high ethical standards, collaboration, diversity, equity and inclusion.

She believes business owners are more fulfilled and higher-performing when they provide emotional and professional business support to other business owners, even those they deem to be competitors. She does this actively, whilst challenging and updating her skills and knowledge of the recruitment sector, enabling her to offer the best advice to firms looking to make their next hire.