How can Flexible Work Policies Support Employee Wellbeing?

Recently, remote working has been a central topic of office debates as employers continue to grapple with new ways of working and how to get the best from their staff with many companies, considering whether to call employees back into the office or to keep their remote working policies intact.

During the pandemic, the necessity of implementing social distancing measures and lockdowns forced organisations to quickly transition to remote work arrangements. Despite more than three years passing since the start of the pandemic, office attendance levels continue to fall short of pre-pandemic norms. In fact, workers are now spending fewer than two days a week in the office, reflecting a significant shift in work dynamics and the importance of flexibility and choice in the workplace.

However, Zoom and Goldman Sachs are a couple of the latest companies to call employees back into the office and ease up on their remote working policies.

When employers consider their remote work policies, it’s vital that employers simultaneously consider what is best for their workforces’ wellbeing and productivity. It’s also important for employers to recognise that while most employees will adjust well to the transition back to the workplace, it might be more difficult and require more time for some, and for others it might not be the best option.

When we surveyed Brits in our Mental Health Index, we found that almost a third (31%) said that flexibility was the most important factor to their wellbeing, over career progression, with 28% saying it was flexibility in the location of work. These findings shed light on the demand for flexible working and how this can contribute towards employee wellbeing. On the other hand, while the location of work is important, at 28% it leaves room for many other forms of flexibility, most notably, flexibility in working hours. This is important to note for both workplaces with jobs where working from home is not an option, as well as those where is it possible. 

Employers that recognise and support flexible working will not only demonstrate that they value their employees' well-being and respect their individual needs, but will also increase productivity, improve job satisfaction and retention of top talent – something that’s vital in a tight labour market.

Ideally managers have some discretion to work with employees who have unique needs and requirements. Working with employees to determine what type of flexibility is needed and offers value for all employees, not just those who have options to work from home.

There has also been discussion related to productivity concerns when people are working from home. Our data suggests that a major factor in the productivity decline many organisations are seeing is the lingering negative impact of the past three years on mental health and wellbeing.

With that, wherever one works, people’s experiences while working and the supports for wellbeing need to be considered if optimum productivity is an objective. The option to work from home or expectation to work in an office is not enough.

Finding the best approach depends on the specific needs and dynamics of each organisation. Open and ongoing dialogue between employers and employees, along with a willingness to adapt and experiment, can help strike a balance. One that maximises productivity, collaboration, and employee well-being at its core.