Why Those Embracing Business Flexibility Will Fare Best Post-Lockdown

Three men using Macbooks sitting on sofas in a photo: Marketing team meeting at a startup co-working space strategizing the next social media campaign at Proof Technologies Inc, East 6th Street, Austin, Texas, USA | Image credit: Austin Distel — Unsplash

On the three-month anniversary of lockdown in the UK, business flexibility is now critical to safely navigate out of lockdown as we gradually return to “business as usual” | Image credit: Austin Distel — Unsplash

Business flexibility is now crucial as we pass the three-month lockdown mark.

For many of us, the past three months will be among the most challenging experiences we’ve ever faced.

However, I think it’s important to learn lessons and to find positives from the situation we find ourselves in. We can build a better way of doing things in future years that help to create better businesses, a better society and ultimately better lives for ourselves, our colleagues and our families.

We now have a golden opportunity to embrace flexible and remote working to create a better work-life balance for millions of people.

16 million — or approximately half the nation’s labour pool — work from home

Looking back just a few months ago, can you believe the below statistic?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the official Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures tell us that during the most recent 12-month period from January to December 2019, only 5 per cent of British people in employment reported that they mainly worked from home:

Figure 1: Around 1.7 million people reported working mainly from home | Number of people working at or near home in the UK, January to December 2019 | Source: Office for National Statistics — Annual Population Survey

Around 1.7 million people reported working mainly from home | Office for National Statistics — Annual Population Survey

Just FIVE per cent! It is indeed a staggering figure. Only 1.7m people in Britain out of a total workforce of 32.6m worked from home.

No wonder the road network and public transport is so congested.

While it’s difficult to obtain exact figures of the situation, it’s safe to say that somewhere in the region of ten times this number of people solely worked from home during the height of lockdown.

Indeed, the results of our own survey of more than 3,000 people found that 55 per cent of office workers are now working from home. This puts the total figure at somewhere around 16m people.

Looking ahead: embracing working flexibility as lockdown eases

As we approach three months since the UK lockdown was announced, I think it’s important to look at what’s coming next.

It is heartening to see shops in Britain reopening. While government advice remains that those of us who can work from home should, this is likely to change in time.

As a result, there is the need to plan for millions of people to be able to return to their places of work including shops, tourist attractions and offices.

Change will not happen immediately though and the emerging situation in Beijing where 45 market workers have now tested positive for COVID-19 tells us that there is a high likelihood of a second wave of infections.

Given the uncertainty that we all face I think the most important thing businesses and workers can now do is to embrace business flexibility.

Business flexibility needs to be embraced at an institutional level to remain effective

In the ONS survey, I referred to earlier just four million people stated that they worked from home at some point in the week prior to the interview.

Our survey found that four in five office workers (79 per cent) now based at home believe the lockdown has proven they can effectively work from home.

With so many us proving that we can indeed successfully work from home, I truly believe that millions more people will be able to make the case that they should have the flexibility to work from home in order to improve productivity — and not just when they need to be at home for a doctor’s appointment or for someone to fix the boiler. 

Indeed, this also creates a huge opportunity for organisations to slash their overheads by reducing the size of the offices they rent.

Embracing business flexibility for over a decade

As a company that is ten years old this year, Atlas Cloud was among the first to embrace business flexibility.

Indeed, our motto for many years has been enabling great work from anywhere.

And by anywhere, we really do mean anywhere.

We’re a hugely ambitious company and we want to attract ambitious, talented people to work for us.

As a result, we enable our team to work while they’re abroad so they can clock in during the days and then tag some additional time on to a foreign holiday.

We also allow our staff to have unlimited annual leave.

While we’re not saying that those two examples will suit every company, we know from the productivity of our team that — by empowering people to work from home or somewhere else — they can do their best work.

How business flexibility can help your organisation navigate out of lockdown

Organisations need to embrace business flexibility now in order to enable home-working and office-working as quickly as possible depending on how the situation changes with future waves of infection and lockdowns.

Companies that embrace institutional flexibility can tailor their technology to the needs of their workforce. This, in turn, will create a better and more flexible work environment. This kind of business flexibility is imperative to reap the rewards of improved team productivity from individuals that passionately want to work for you.

Enabling business flexibility was one of the drivers behind us creating pay as you go pricing that businesses can turn on and off.

While the next couple of years are likely to be hard, there will be brighter times ahead for those of us seeking a better work-life balance.

Looking ahead: business flexibility enhances workforce post-lockdown

Sadly, as the ONS graph shows, at the moment it’s the youngest in society who have the least ability to work from home.

Let’s plan to make them the biggest beneficiaries of worker flexibility in the coming years and give them the opportunity to build better lives for themselves as well as more productive businesses and organisations for those that they work for.

I’m convinced that the businesses which enable the most flexibility will cope best with the COVID-19 crisis in the coming months and they will indeed thrive in the coming years when this situation is behind us.

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