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Flexibility: Britain’s Brexit survival strategy

Contributed by Erik Fjellborg, CEO & Founder, Quinyx 

Britain’s exit from the European Union marks the biggest geopolitical shakeup for generations.

With just a few weeks to go until the Brexit deal deadline, the decisions that are due to be made over the next month will shape the course of the UK and its businesses for decades to come. And with the country already suffering from lagging productivity, Brexit casts further shadows of doubt over how Britain will continue to compete on the global stage.

With many of the UK’s vital industries heavily reliant on skilled international workers to fill vacancies, employers are, justifiably, getting increasingly concerned about restricted access to talent. Recent research by City & Guilds Group found that nine in 10 UK employers are already struggling to find and retain the skilled professionals they need, with two thirds thinking Brexit will exacerbate the problem.

So, to ensure the British workforce is fighting fit and can weather the storm heading its way, business leaders need to find more creative ways of attracting, retaining and motivating the best possible staff members. And that means putting employee happiness back to the top of the agenda.

Flexibility is key for employee happiness 

From my experience, the most effective way of boosting happiness and team morale is through flexibility.

By giving employees the flexibility to create their desired work life balance and choose the schedule that is right for them, employers will find themselves with staff members who enjoy their jobs and become brand ambassadors for the companies they work for. The result? A happier office atmosphere, with motivated, productive employees who are more willing to stick around and ride out the turbulent times ahead. 

In fact, it has been proven that flexibility holds the keys to solving Britain’s productivity crisis. The 2018 HSBC Productivity Study found that nine in 10 workers (89%) think flexible working motivates them to be more productive at work. Particularly in light of the fallout from Brexit, addressing the UK’s productivity problem should be high up on the government’s priority list, if the country is going to continue to compete with other world leading nations.

A viable solution for our multi-generational workforce 

Attention on flexibility tends to be synonymous with the newer entrants to the workforce. And it’s true that it’s important for Gen Z and millennial workers, who will make up more than half of the workforce by 2020.

But it’s important that business leaders bear in mind that in Britain’s multi-generational workforce, flexibility is just as important for the other generations and booming demographics, such as the returners and older workers, who need to ensure their job fits around family life, caring responsibilities or other interests. Our own research this year revealed that a third of the working population say the ability to work flexibly or fit work around family life is the most important thing when looking for a new job.

 Breaking the inflexible impasse

If flexible working can not only make the UK workforce happier and more productive but will also work the every demographic of Britain’s working population, why hasn’t it been suggested and implemented as a Brexit business strategy?

The problem is that it still has a bad reputation. We’re stuck in an impasse in which employers associate flexible working with spiralling costs and scheduling nightmares – they see a trade-off between flexibility and financial performance.

But this is far from the truth. With the right tools and technologies in place, flexible working can be easy. By cutting down admin and allowing business leaders and employees to collaborate on a schedule that works for everyone, solutions like smart workforce technology can improve productivity, save time, reduce costs and boost employee happiness.

 A stronger and more flexible future 

What we need moving forward is a change in mindset amongst UK businesses. The time has come to recognise that flexibility is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ for UK employers – but a vital differentiator in a rapidly changing and challenging labour market.

Yes, it’s true that the UK is navigating an increasingly difficult period due to the threats of Brexit – but leaving the European Union doesn’t have to be the disaster that everyone seems to be preparing for.

There’s an answer to retaining top talent during Brexit’s uncertainty and optimising an unproductive workforce – and that’s flexibility. A simple but effective measure employers can take to boost their employees’ happiness and stay on top of whatever storm is about to head our way.