FLEXIBILITY

Flexibility is a thread that runs through each of the drivers of change. Technology has acted as a facilitator, with video-conferencing and improved connectivity increasing flexibility in where work is done.

Technological platforms have contributed to the emergence of the gig economy, providing both companies and individuals with flexibility as to the when and how much of work. To date, the gig economy is most visible in delivery riders and drivers meeting the needs of online shopping and home delivery of meals. Even as far back as 2009, former New Yorker editor Tina Brown was predicting the rise of the “gig economy” among higher-paid professional workers.

State intervention will support flexible working practices through fresh regulation. Since 2014, all British employees have had a legal right to request flexible working after six months in the job. The UK government is currently consulting on extending this right from day one of employment and including the right to request homeworking.

Countries around the world will adapt employment laws in the years ahead to clarify the working status and rights of gig economy workers and other non-traditional workers. The aim will be to maintain flexibility while ensuring that worker rights and the tax and social security implications are appropriate for the modern working world. 

Demographic change will drive flexibility in the who of work. Employers will need greater flexibility to attract and retain skilled workers as the rapid changes in the world of work lead to skill shortages and labour supply takes time to catch up with new demands. Employers will need to broaden their horizons in recruitment, looking beyond their traditional hiring pools to other groups with the potential to contribute productively. Examples include: older workers, many of whom have found homeworking liberating and a reason to delay retirement (see demographics – ageing population); candidates outside their traditional geographic recruitment market (see migration – cross-border working); and those with caring responsibilities. 

Changing societal values and priorities and the increasing desire for a work/life balance will also drive increased flexibility (see social trends – work/life balance).

Flexibility

Where

Where

For the majority of workers who do not have to be on site, there will be flexibility as to the base from which they do their work. Workforces will be scattered around the country and across borders exploiting the ease from which work can be done remotely. Businesses will need to prepare to manage workers working temporarily or permanently overseas with the attendant challenges. This flexibility will enable employers greater access to skilled workers. 

Who

Employers will need to be more flexible about who they employ. With an ageing workforce and workers taking more career breaks, businesses will need to adapt and look to recruit from beyond their traditional pool. In some cases, this potential pool will now include remote workers, older workers and those with caring responsibilities. Employers will also need to prepare for skill shortages as changing needs accelerate. Skill shortages will elevate training and development needs.

When

When

The increased flexibility available to, and sought by, workers will mean increased flexibility in the hours employees work. For many, the times of the day they work will now be fixed to meet their needs as much as convention about a traditional 9am to 5pm working day. Employers will also benefit from increased flexibility looking more and more for workers to be working at times that respond to the business’ needs. The gig economy is the epitome of this with individuals able to pick and choose when and whether to accept tasks.

How much

How much

Working hours have been decreasing over recent years. Home working during the pandemic actually resulted in an increase in working hours with a survey showing an increase of almost 25% in the UK amongst home workers. However, in the longer term, many workers will embrace greater flexibility and control over the amount of work they do and the balance between home and work. It is likely that reduced hours promises to be a more common feature of the working week. 

Part 1 

DRIVERS OF CHANGE

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Part 2 

EMERGING THEMES

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Part 3 

PREDICTIONS

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