By Olivia Bath, Founder of The Women’s Vault
Hybrid work weeks, the ability to work from flexible locations and hours, including compressed hours will become even more popular as employees return to their office over the summer, promoting greater diversity and inclusion of the five generations currently in workplaces.
Last week Ernst and Young was the latest of the top 4 accounting firms to confirm that its employees will do a hybrid work week when they return to the offices over the summer.
The banks are taking a similar approach. A spokesperson for the Japanese investment bank, Nomura, confirmed, “It is Nomura’s ambition to have the vast majority of its corporate workforce working in a hybrid model. This is dependent on the requirements of their role.”
Many are saying that this is a new age of work and for the first time since 1988 that London has reported a decline in its population, underlining the change in perception that work must be done when we are tethered to a desk.
Demand on SpareRoom – a website that pairs people with houseshares – says that London searches are down by an incredible 23%, conversely and perhaps predictably, the North and Coastal areas have seen an increase.
Many forward-thinking companies were already moving towards more flexible working options. Though, the pandemic has accelerated further plans and created new ones for many businesses that would not have even considered a hybrid working model.
Employees seem largely happy with this change that’s been called for for years.
The five generations in our workplaces will all benefit from greater flexibility
Right now there are five generations of employees present in our workforces and greater flexibility seems to benefit all of those generations in ways that are helpful to them.
Baby boomers can now work from the remote location at which they would like to retire. In fact 8% of those over 50 have held off on retirement since the pandemic hit.
Gen X may have elderly parents with caring responsibilities or children at school for whom they want to be at home for at the end of the school day, rather than sitting on the tube.
Millennials are now having children and want to be home for bed and bath-time routine, or want to be able to work a city job, but live in the countryside and don’t want to waste time or money on commuting.
They are also still challenged by coming up with a deposit on a home in the city and so they can now live where they want and work in a flexible way that suits them.
Whereas, Gen Z, who are in their first years of working (or are still studying) want to run a side-hustle business and so want an extra day to be able to fulfil their personal passions.
It seems that every generation and many of their unique desires can be fulfilled through their company adopting flexible work arrangements.
Women in leadership opportunity
It’s hard not to broach the topic of flexible work without mentioning the topic of women in leadership and the slow progress that’s being made in the finance industry.
My Confidence Matters Ltd found in their 2019 report, ‘Getting to Equal: Career Confidence and the Path to Leadership’, that 85% of women want to reach a more senior role, however the top three obstacles to achieving this were juggling work-life balance, a lack of visible internal opportunities and a lack of confidence in their own ability.
There is hope that hybrid working or other flexible models will help to overcome some of the challenges faced by women in the Finance industry.
Compressed hours is another flexible work option
Compressed hours, which allows employees to ‘condense’ or compress their working week into fewer days, is an increasing flexible work choice in the UK.
Businesses such as Transport for London; Unilever and Nomura allow their employees to do compressed hours, depending upon their role.
Typically compressed hours, or a “compressed working week” is where hours are condensed over fewer days, such as five days in four across a 10 hour work day, or a nine day fortnight.
Alternative ways to structure a compressed working week include doing it part-time, such as four days in three; or leaving early in the afternoons for the school run and making up those hours flexibly.
Others do compressed hours during peak work periods, so that there are extended or overlapping operational hours.
Pros of working compressed hours
Compressed hours benefit both the employer and employee.
It allows employees to have work/life balance, potentially enabling them to be more productive, engaged in their work and may be less likely to leave their employer.
It also allows them to maintain a full time salary; continue to have career progression that is often hindered by working part time and have a reduction in personal outgoings such as less commuting fees or nursery/ schooling fees.
Some women have reported saving nearly £3,500 per year in nursery fees by moving to compressed hours.
For employers, they are able to increase retention rates of the staff, increase women in leadership at senior levels and hold onto top talent.
Cons of doing compressed hours
But it’s not all a rosy picture. There are many varied challenges to doing compressed hours.
Employees must adapt to this way of working and be prepared both personally and professionally. It requires being highly productive, very organised, having energy and stamina to work long hours, being able to plan with projects, as well as being able to properly switch off on your day off.
It does take time to adjust to working longer days – though for some, the hours would be largely the same, it’s just now there is more balance with a day off.
It also requires trust with your manager and colleagues – a new dynamic that has arisen since the pandemic and working from home; and places the emphasis on the employee to communicate with their manager if they are heading towards burnout or exhaustion.
Other challenges include having the confidence to ask and negotiate compressed hours, which is one of the main barriers cited by women working in the industry.
Financial organisations can lead the charge for transforming the way we work
Finance employs nearly 3m people in the UK and Europe. There is a great opportunity for leadership in flexible working approaches, reflecting employees’ across all generations desires to have better work/life integration.