The face of traditional work looks like a well-dressed office worker with a regiment. A five-day work week, nine-to-fives behind the desk in an office, and the occasional out-of-office automated replies on the brief moments of respite when a fixed set of annual leave days are available for the taking.
But the new face of work looks more like a carefree youth, free from the typical restrictions associated with corporate life. Unlimited medical leaves, flexible work hours and remote working arrangements have seen employees working in the comfort of their pyjamas at home, or even while sipping cocktails on the beach.
Such is the future of work, catalysed by the pandemic and embraced as a norm today. Take the four-day work week, for example. While a few companies may have experimented with a four-day work week pre-pandemic, the pandemic has brought on an advent of new trials, to largely successful results.
A recent pilot study conducted by 4 Day Week Global in collaboration with Cambridge University and Boston College found that the arrangement was preferable for both employers and employees. Employers and employees rated the experience 9 and 9.1 out of 10, where 0 is very negative and 10 is very positive.
Ratings were also positive for company and productivity improvement, as well as improvements in employee well-being. The pilot was conducted across 33 companies, with over 900 employees. A majority of these employees were located in the US and Ireland, with others scattered throughout Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Canada.
So, results are promising, but is it enough of a consideration for organisations to consider changing up established work practices that may have been working just fine? Increasingly, the winds seem to be blowing in that direction, with governments too coming on board to encourage more flexibility in work arrangements.
Flexibility for diversity
In April this year, the Singapore Parliament endorsed a 10-year roadmap to ensure equal opportunities for women in Singapore. The White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development outlines 25 equality actions across five aspects of workplace diversity and equal opportunities, one of which was the allowance and encouragement of more flexible working arrangements (FWA).
FWAs will help to “enable both women and men to better balance their work, family and personal responsibilities”, according to the White Paper. As part of this initiative, Singapore’s Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) aims to introduce a new set of Tripartite Guidelines requiring employers to consider FWA requests fairly and properly by 2024. The Paper also laid out plans to increase the adoption of voluntary FWAs to cover 40 per cent of all employees by the end of this year.
Beyond gender diversity, FWAs are also sought after by people of colour in the United States. CNBC reported that underrepresented peoples of colour had the strongest desire for work flexibility, citing a survey done by Future Forum.
And diversity, as addressed in a previous article by Charterhouse, can greatly contribute to a company’s bottom line, productivity and performance.
Attract and retain talent
FWAs today have become a key consideration for many candidates in their search for a new job. A site for flexible employment, FlexJobs, found that 16% of 7,300 workers surveyed were looking for new jobs because of flexibility issues. In addition, more than 25% of survey participants indicated willingness to take a pay cut in exchange for FWAs.
A vast majority of participants in previous surveys conducted by FlexJobs also indicated their preference for jobs with flexibility, as well as greater loyalty to workplaces which offered flexible schedules.
All this to say that offering FWA can be a valuable way for companies to attract and retain talents, something Hong Kong placed great emphasis on in the Chief Executive’s 2022 Policy Address. The Address had stated a desire for Hong Kong to be more proactive in competing for enterprises and talents to create a strong impetus for growth, introducing initiatives to encourage global enterprise and talent recruitment.
Flexibility in work is no longer just a perk. Today and in the future, it will increasingly become an expectation that candidates have. If companies want to retain their competitive edge and continue to attract diverse and global talents, then FWAs may indeed be something to consider.