What are the main topics of conversation on my commute into London? The horrors in the Ukraine, inflation, party-gate? No, none of these; it is which days people are working in the office, which at home and how they are adjusting to the ‘new new normal’. Is the four day week inevitable?
Businesses all over the country have reacted very differently to the post-pandemic world of work. Some like the large City banks are mandating staff to revert to the full pre-pandemic Monday to Friday working regime, whilst others are taking a rather more flexible and pragmatic approach.
Of course, there are many more issues at stake here than merely hours in the office. Whilst many staff have enjoyed the working from home experience, others have not, missing the buzz and camaraderie of an office environment.
One thing is for certain, the adoption of Zoom and Teams meetings during Covid-19 means that those meeting mediums are here to stay, leading to much greater time efficiencies and lower travel costs and an end to the often travel-related stress.
Going forward, an organisation’s WFH policy is going to be a significant factor in both retaining and attracting new talent and – if not already explicit in the job ad – is likely to be right up there in the interviewee’s top three questions. A busy time for all HR departments for sure.
How companies react depends very much on the type of business they are in or whether they feel they can trust their employees not to abuse a much more flexible and self-empowering approach to the working week. Client facing service sector businesses clearly need to ensure quality of service is maintained but balance this against the risk of wholesale resignations should they revert to a zero flexible working policy.
Some firms are taking quite a radical approach, with PwC, for example, announcing that its 22,000 staff can finish at Friday lunchtime over the summer. Others may follow and this will almost certainly be the precursor to the official four day working week that many have been calling for to create ‘positive well-being’ and a better work life balance.
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