There are many things that you should consider when you’re looking for a new employer. There’s the usual: the job, the pay, perks, culture and so on. But now, more than ever, one extra factor is at the front of many job-seekers minds: flexible working.

Before the covid-19 pandemic started, we wrote back in Sept 2019, that flexible and remote working were becoming an increasingly significant demand from the workforce.

Now, obviously, everything has changed. Remote work, mandated by the pandemic, has upended the traditional view of office work. From set hours to the commute, to communication – we now see it all in a new light.

Your rights

Under UK law, permanent employees who have worked continuously for six months have the right to request flexible working. Employers have to respond within three months and any refusal should be “absolutely justified”. Flexible working can mean things like changes to hours or moving to a different location.

Why it’s good for you

Studies have found that flexible working if done properly, increases productivity. That’s obviously a boost for the company you’re working for, but it’s a boost for you too.

Business Insider quotes Ron Friedman, social psychologist and author of The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace, as saying:

“We have decades of studies showing that people are happier, healthier, and more productive when they feel autonomous. The more autonomous we feel, the more likely we are to be engaged.”

As well as improving productivity, flexible working has been shown to improve employee morale and job satisfaction; it goes without saying that having higher morale and job satisfaction is something we all want.

Finding Balance

Of course, we’ve all got to know the ins and outs of remote working very intimately in the past year, and we know it’s not all positive. Perhaps what it has shown above all else is that, for most people, a rigid working environment is not right. Being in the office every day is not right for most – but nor is being cooped up at home all the time.

This is borne out in the numbers: in a poll of RedCat Digital’s LinkedIn followers, most people said they’d prefer to work three or four days at home, with a quarter saying they’d like to work one or two days from home. And people got in touch to tell us some of their reasons why, which ranged from the practical (why be in the office if you don’t need to be?) to more wide-ranging social issues like reducing carbon footprint.

Times are a-changin’

When RedCat first covered this topic, the status quo was that, in terms of flexible working, supply was simply not matching demand. More people wanted flexible work than companies offered it.

There were green shoots of progress – an increasing number of forward-thinking organisations suggested they’d be open to the idea – but wholesale change was never likely.

Of course, the world is a different place now. We know companies can do it and, though it’s clear that only a minority of workers want to stay completely remote full-time (and only a handful of companies will offer this), it’s also clear that employers are going to have to offer flexibility.

The future

Most of that is likely to be driven by employee demand. As our poll shows, people want flexibility. And some of the biggest companies in the world are acknowledging this. Google is incorporating hybrid working (part office-based, part remote) features into its Workspace product, for example, while Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has said the move towards flexible work is driving the company’s decentralised cloud strategy.

The case for flexible working is stronger than ever, and employers are aware that they’ll need to offer it to attract the best talent. If you’re on the lookout for a new job, make sure you consider your prospective employer’s position on flexible working.

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