Report highlights desire for more flexible working

Shona Adam

A new report by the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) has found that the workforce of the future will want to make ‘informed choices’ of where and how to work ‘most productively and more beneficially for their wellbeing’.

The New Frontiers for Smarter Working, Work and Workplace Report also revealed that a ‘blended’ approach to working will depend on how employers ‘gauge the benefits from the improved working set up while ensuring the wellbeing of employees’.

Shona Adam, SFT’s associate director of workplace change and co-author of the report, said, “This exciting future is about allowing both employer and employee to make an informed choice of where they want to work from, on any given day, that is going to best achieve the outcomes that need to be delivered by both the employee and the organisation. As a result of the pandemic, we know that people have benefited from the lack of the daily commute and that the majority of office-based roles can be done remotely. However, some people are struggling with mental health and isolation problems. Each organisation will have to assess the preferences of their workforce as well as explore the impacts, and weigh up the longer-term benefits and risks.”

Working with an SFT-led group comprising public, private and third sector ‘smarter working’ professionals, SFT added that a variety of opportunities have been identified.

Analysis of a sample of public sector organisations found 88% of employees wanted to work at least one day a week from home, with 24% happy to continue to work full-time from home, while only 10% preferred not to work from home.

“Smarter working isn’t just about the physical place. It’s about understanding the people aspect, and this will be the future focus. This is a social revolution, accelerated by the pandemic. It’s not a static situation where we simply return to old ways,” Shona Adam added. She said the culture of ‘presenteeism’, where employers and managers expected to see their colleagues sitting in the office, is being swept away. “What the pandemic has demonstrated is that we have gone from the head office or HQ, to hundreds and thousands of offices in homes,” she explained. “We have a dispersed workforce working on the basis of trust to get the job done.”

However, SFT revealed that home working for prolonged periods is having an impact for some people on their mental health and in certain cases, causing social isolation. The report explains how employees could continue to go to the head office to socialise, integrate with colleagues, cooperate on ideas and strategy, innovate products and services and to share the culture. Neutral ‘Hub’ locations, such as a café or a digitally connected public library, could also become part of the flexible working solution.

Shona Adam added, “Collectively, across both public and private sectors, we need to use the experience we’ve had during the pandemic in a positive way, to dispel presenteeism and consign it to the past. Workers can be located anywhere provided they undertake the activities they are paid to do. This is a tremendous opportunity to explore a distributed network for delivering outcomes.”