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How Important Is Workplace Flexibility?

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The legacy of COVID-19 will be written in the coming months and years, as millions of people reorganise their lives around new, post-pandemic expectations.

Indeed, some of that legacy is already being put into practice - the great resignation is a sure sign of a global workforce seeking redress in the face of crisis. Although far from the only reason why millions of workers have up-sticks and changed jobs (or left entire industries), remote or flexible working has become a figurative head of the resignation beast. 

  • For example in the UK “In April 2020, 46.6% of people in employment did some work at home” per the ONS.
  • In the USA, “17% of U.S. employees worked from home 5 days or more per week (pre-COVID), a share that increased to 44% during the pandemic”, per Statista.
  • France is imposing home working 3 days in 5;
  • South Korea, 66.7% of employers support home working in some format;

On and on the lists go, with enormous democracies like India and China also moving their overwhelmingly manufacturing, production and factory workforces as remote as possible, albeit in some areas to a much lesser degree. Beyond the wide safety net cast over multiple industries, remote work offered a glimpse of what could be - decentralised workforces; more time spent at home with family; less commuting; more sustainable working practises; less short term burnout (but with caveats); more freedom to set your own agenda, and yet still remain overwhelmingly productive.

So, how important is workplace flexibility? Very. Long gone are the days of offering a few days working from home a month as a perk. For many working sectors, hybrid working arrangements are now the expectation. That said, it’s worth iterating that not all staff want to work from home all the time. Hence why we don’t advocate for a fully remote-as-standard arrangement. Flexibility is indeed key:

  • did a survey of 1000 workers, and found that flexible working schedules to spend more time with children and families was the primary reason for desiring more long term remote work;
  • Gitlab states hybrid arrangements are favoured, and time in the office is valued, because of three reasons, “facetime with leadership…collaboration…and keeping to routines”.
  • The BBC highlight a McKinsey report, stating, “A recent… study on workers’ hopes for the future shows that 18-to-29-year-olds are most interested in a hybrid work set-up, working two to three days a week from home, and the rest in an office”.

So why has hybridity become so desired, and why should employers buy-in wholeheartedly to it?

We believe it’s down to three things: empowerment of teams; better recruitment and retention strategies; and productivity gains.

Empowerment of teams

“We are seeing (an) acceleration of the trend to democratise the workplace… During these last few months, digital technology has flattened hierarchies, with everyone connected and getting information at the same time, and so many channels for employee input and involvement in decision-making in real time.”

 Diane Gherson, CHRO at IBM

Remote work flexibility provides true empowerment. It implicitly creates an equitable, more relatable and more trusted working environment and it provides a bit of give where it matters most - creating a more attractive work/life balance. Empowerment may be a floaty term when it comes to people management, and it can mean all things to all people - but at the very root of hybrid work is trust, and by giving it willingly you are proving to your people you value their health and professional requirements.

Recruitment and Retention strategies

From diversifying your geographical candidate input, to incorporating faster, more efficient screen-based recruitment strategies, remote work has brought recruitment to the 21st century. Critically, remote working gives your HR heads and business leaders a more solid foundation for building contemporary retention strategies. Staff are not afraid of pulling the trigger on jobs that don’t match their expectations. You will not hire people without offering some semblance of hybrid working.

Retention means dropping the legacy strategies that don’t serve your people any more. Update your systems, upgrade your expectations from your staff, and you’ll see results.


As mentioned above, productivity has failed to drop off a cliff, as remote naysayers were so often predicting. People are more engaged, happier and feel more connected with their labour. While it’s inevitable this long term change will raise bugbears of its own devices - novel forms of disconnected burnout being one, and digital presenteeism being another - people in the vast majority of cases stay productive while working from home. As per Apollo Technical, “Several studies over the past few months show productivity while working remotely from home is better than working in an office setting.

On average, those who work from home spend 10 minutes less a day being unproductive, work one more day a week, and are 47% more productive”. 

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