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4 months ago by Helen Doughty

​81% of leaders are planning for more flexible work

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There is no doubt that the impact of the coronavirus on the way we work will be long-lasting, if not permanent. Optimists highlight a silver lining of the pandemic’s disruption being the chance to rethink and improve our businesses for the better.

Perhaps the biggest (or certainly most talked about) opportunity is around flexibility and the type of jobs companies offer. While there have been some high-profile pioneers, a fuller picture of what leaders' long-term plans are is still emerging. A recent survey sheds some light into what we could expect.

The Institute of Directors surveyed 583 business leaders between March 11-29 2021, to gauge how they plan to change their long-term recruitment and workplace practices.

Over half (57%) of respondents said they are considering or planning to use more virtual interviewing practices; 26% plan to hire under more flexible, short-term contracts.

The benefits of doing so are clear when it comes to inclusion. Being able to dial in via video, instead of facing an arduous journey on public transport or in traffic, can make the process easier for some disabled candidates to apply for example - it also widens the net to talent outside of a firm’s immediate geographical location.

But these practices also place greater demands on the broader skillsets of directors, says Joe Fitzsimons, a senior policy advisor at the IoD. “Recruiting and onboarding employees at a distance, particularly for less experienced individuals at the early stages of their career, can prove challenging.”

The survey also suggests that companies, buoyed by the results of forced homeworking, plan to introduce more flexibility into their working day and workspaces - 81% said they plan to explore more flexible options, while 32% said that they plan to reduce office space. But only one fifth suggest that they plan to make use of a co-working space, suggesting that any dedicated office shrinkage will be in favour of home-working.

For those keeping their physical spaces, 22% plan to repurpose offices to be more open plan or have more social spaces, and 21% are considering hot-desking.

Quite how reflective this is of wider employer views is hard to say, but one thing is for sure, don’t expect to simply carry on as before. Businesses will need to adapt their ways of working, how they measure their staff and ensure that they have the adequate technology and skills to make it work long term. Managers will also need to be up to the task.