“We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they [are] at their desk or in their kitchen. Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will.”
Richard Branson, Founder and Chairman Virgin Group
Much has been reported about the future ways of working with flexibility being the most sought after element of a working arrangement employees have with their employers. The DNA of our workforce today is made up of five generations working alongside each other for the first time with Gen Z employees joining the working world this year. The common thread connecting all is a shared desire to have a flexible working arrangement that works for them. This flexibility can take many forms including remote working, job-sharing, flexi-time, freelancing, part-time, shift working, compressed working week etc.
As employers continue to battle with global skills shortages, talent attraction and retention are ever important and meeting the demands of its workforce means developing policies for their businesses that promote modes of flexibility for workers.
In 2014 Sweden introduced a six hour working day, 2.5 hours less than the Irish average, in an effort to prove the theory that a reduced working day would yield a more productive and motivated workforce with less sick days.
In the same year France took a stance to ensure that all ‘digital working time’ would now need to be measured and included in the 35 hour working week. The UK introduced the flexi or zero hour contracts where the employee does not have specified hours of work, offering flexibility on both the side of the employer and employee. Last year, legislation was passed in California to allow employers to adopt alternative working schedules for their employees.
The evolving dynamic of the flexible workforce has worked in favour of multinationals setting up operations in Ireland. We now have a flexible professional workforce that can service the demands of a global market and varying timezones. Mobile technology has made the possibility to work from home servicing global markets out of hours possible. It has also allowed for the worker to be more accessible and lengthened their working day.
Our US counterparts are showcasing the benefits of a gig economy defined as “an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements”. We are seeing this trend evolving in Ireland amongst the millennial tech community who do not fear the lack of security of prior generations and are looking for diversity in work, technology and flexibility to create time for family, friends and making a difference in the community, achieving the work-life balance they strive for (Leslie Doolittle, assistant dean and director of academic support services at Bentley University).
The popularity of wearable technology and corresponding rise of corporate wellness programs within companies has put the spotlight on the importance of health and well-being amongst its workforce to reduce absenteeism, increase engagement and drive productivity. In an era where sleep patterns can now be monitored by the press of a button, shift work and the effects of it on the worker are being measured more closely not just by the employer but also now by the employee.
In recognising that the world of work is changing through innovations, technology, legislation and generation driven attitudes, Morgan McKinley are looking to monitor those changes closer to home by launching our second Working Hours Survey. This has been enhanced and designed to explore if the flexibility that is being written about in theory is being offered to our work-force in practice and what trends can we point to that are emerging.