Instil flexibility to future-proof in the digital age

21 Sep 2017

Lynn Rattigan 200x200 [square]When it comes to flexible working ‘That’s just not the way we work here’ is a sentence that UK businesses should treat as a future risk. Businesses who are operating with more rigid working patterns are missing the opportunity to future-proof themselves and get ahead.

by Lynn Rattigan, Chief Operating Officer, EY UK&I

There is no doubt that the workplace of the future will be more flexible. Employers are using it to adapt to the changing world of work, impacted by globalisation and most notably advances in technology. More than ever before, people will be able to use tech to connect with each other and make smart choices about when, where and how they work. If employers want to attract and retain the very best talent, flexibility is becoming more of a commercial imperative.

Indeed the UK workforce is increasingly demanding more control over their work blend – as shown in Timewise’s new research Flexible Working: A Talent Imperative. Busting what Timewise call the ‘Mum myth’, flexibility is not exclusively for parents. People of all ages and at all stages of their career increasingly want and need it, whether to pursue a hobby or sport, care for relatives, start their own business, study, volunteer, partially retire, or even cut down on commute times. Many of us are looking for greater control over our work and home life.

But be aware, a written flexible working policy is not enough. To be effective, a flexible approach must be embedded into the culture of the organisation, crucially with the tone set from the top. Other measures that we see organisations take are: flexible hiring – advertising roles as ‘open to flexibility’; creative job design; and an increasing use of contingent workers. Long-standing recruitment processes and working arrangements are increasingly being challenged in favour of a flexible working environment that appeals to a wider pool of talent.

At EY we are embracing technological disruption and changing work patterns to ensure we have diverse talent to better serve our clients. We are helping to open up the profession by, for example: hiring flexibly; helping those who have had a career break – through our structured return-ship programme EY Reconnect – back into the profession; and treating flexible working ‘as just the way we do business’.

The business value speaks for itself. In a recent flexible working survey 84% of people said they worked flexibly and 58% told us that they joined us or stayed with us because of our flexible approach. 92% said they feel flexible working is a benefit, which improves motivation. Other benefits cited included: reduced travel time, improved well-being and an increase in productivity.

In a rapidly-changing world of work, UK businesses cannot afford to wait for disruption to happen to them. Businesses need to disrupt themselves to be fit for the workplace of the future – which will no doubt be flexible.

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