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Forever Flex: Making flexible working work beyond a crisis

Posted: 19th November 2020

Sir Robert McAlpine have funded a report around flexible working entitled 'Forever Flex: Making flexible working work beyond a crisis'. The research, conducted during lockdown, aims to provide employers with something more than just stats on flexible working. It is a study of real life success stories and evidence based advice which will resonate on a human level. This report provides the first examples of how flexible working can be managed successfully across all sectors of industry, resulting in a happier and more efficient workforce.

In 2019, Sir Robert McAlpine backed Mother Pukka’s Flex Appeal campaign to fund research that would provide flexible working solutions for employers and increase flexible working opportunities for employees. This was motivated by a commitment to driving inclusion, improving the work life balance of its workforce, and addressing the issue of mental health in construction, which records an alarming rate of male suicides each year. As the pandemic and subsequent lockdown hit in March 2020, the country was flung into the great Covid “flex-periment”, where forced remote working conditions were quite different from true flexible working. The focus of the Flex Appeal study then shifted towards providing examples of successful flexible working, applicable for the long term, after the pandemic.

In key highlights, the Forever Flex report shows that whilst 72% wished to retain home working after the pandemic, just 66% of employers in the construction sector intended to do so.

Crucially, the report stresses that, whilst the pandemic helped challenge common employer misconceptions around flexible working, there remains a need for greater clarity to facilitate a shift from the ‘accidental flex’ – unplanned changes to working patterns necessitated by the pandemic - towards a ‘true flex’, where flexible working is consistently and effectively utilised.

Based on interviews with leaders and decision makers at 32 companies that have already embraced flexible working, the report provides guidance for businesses on how they can successfully shift towards ‘true flex’:

  • Go beyond HR: setting up workshops and coaching for leaders to help them understand how flex can be implemented properly
  • Adjust the terminology: tailoring flex to your organisation’s specific culture and priorities to ease the transition for employees
  • Test it out: to find out what works best for your business, pilot and trial flex working changes on small teams, rather than unveiling a big launch