Traditionally, a businesses working hours have existed between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. In support of this, the typical office comprised of desks in an open plan setting, a communal kitchen and a meeting space. However, the world of work is changing. No longer are employees resigned to the confines of the ‘nine to five’. Instead, workers increasingly desire flexible working, with businesses becoming more willing to oblige due to a wealth of rapidly emerging benefits.

What is flexible working?

Flexible working means a company adapting to suit its employees’ needs.

A scalable concept, some businesses are happy for their staff to work completely remotely while others set variable start and finish times. The overall aim is to promote a more harmonious worklife, which is considered to result in maximised creativity and increased levels of productivity.

The way we work, discover work and operate is changing. Why do we need to be in the office 9-5?
Tom Cheesewright, Applied Futurologist Tweet this

Do all workers want greater flexibility?

People work in different ways. For jobs that require concentration, noise may be an issue, whereas more collaborative roles could require an open plan space that encourages conversation.

Our recent survey of 2,500 European employees on their experiences of the workplace found that 56% of people never work from home.

Although the reasons for this may be mixed in terms of whether people prefer to work in an office, or their employer doesn’t offer flexible working, 28% of those surveyed stated preferring to work off-site when workloads are high. In contrast, 63% believe they are more productive in an office environment.

‘Wellbeing’ has been highlighted as the main issue employees feel their organisation needs to prioritise. This is followed by ‘mental health’. Therefore, the offer of greater flexibility seems a positive response to a range of working styles – even if the majority of employees still prefer the office.

How would flexible working impact on employee work/life balance?

Of course, the relevance of this less formal way of working is entirely dependent on the employee and the company. While 44% of those employed by a private organisation are more likely to work from home occasionally, 57% of those in the public sector are not, instead spending all of their working day in the office.

Whether operating from the office or elsewhere, the offer of flexible working was outlined as the biggest motivator for 34% of all employees surveyed. This is supported by 28% believing they are more productive away from the office, and 16% stating they are more productive outside of their company’s core working hours.

As a result, flexible working could perhaps help to promote a more positive working experience – the benefits of which are two-fold.

People talk about the death of the office but they’ve been saying that for 15 years and the office is still here. I don’t believe we’ll see the death of the office but we will see the death of the desk.
Hannah Nardini, WK.space Tweet this

Firstly, employees can work when they feel most productive, providing free time when needed to answer commitments outside of the office. Over half of those surveyed highlighted important responsibilities outside of work that required their free time.
 
And concurrently, with 80% of flexi-time staff working more hours than what they’re contracted to, businesses are benefitting from enhanced productivity levels and increased creativity.

How feasible is true flexibility in the workplace?

With the boundaries between work and life more blurred than ever before, flexibility seems to be the most effective way forward – both for businesses and their staff.
 
This has been made easier by the advent of new technologies providing seamless solutions for remote working – from instant messaging services like Slack to free video calling.
 
However, the office environment still plays a key role for many, perhaps as an option rather than a given.

In support of business owners, workplace designers must too take direction from these emerging trends.

Flexibility lends itself to options, which can be achieved through implementing creative problem-solving solutions. Whether it’s adding private pods for independent working, or making offices more conducive to collaboration, there’s no denying that the workplace is changing.
 
And while it’s up to employers as to how they structure their business, listening to the needs of staff can help promote greater wellbeing and, in turn, increased productivity levels. So regardless of workers being more suited to an environment that’s located inside or outside of the office, the future of work seems to be flexibility.
 
If you want to find out more about what European office workers really value, download Rethinking Workplace - Part I. This will provide more in-depth insights across a range of demographics.

Rethinking Workplace - Part I
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Anette Timmer EMEA Marketing Director Carpets/Workplace

Anette is passionate about driving the debate around employee health & wellbeing through sustainable design innovation and industry collaboration.

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