A recent survey conducted by the University of Birmingham shows that managers are believing that productivity has been improved due to flexible working. The research is part of the Equal Parenting Project and was done to gain insights into how the abrupt change in working styles due to the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the workplace.
The data for this survey was collected in 2022, between June and August. It involved 597 managers who have all been managing workplaces that offer flexible working styles.
Flexible Working in the UK
Recently, the UK government announced that there will be changes in the legislation for flexible working rights. In an online publication, they stated that the government will now make the right to request flexible working from day one – instead of the current legislation that only allows the right to request flexible working for employees with 26 weeks of continuous service.
The rise in flexible working in the UK is mainly due to pandemic restrictions that have pushed flexible working to become the norm for many workers. The UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) has delved into the possibility of hybrid working styles to remain after the restrictions have been lifted.
The ONS found that the proportion of hybrid workers has increased in 2022, with 38% of workers in spring 2022 admitting having worked from home in the past seven days. This shows that even with no pandemic restrictions, many are preferring the hybrid working model – and flexible working styles will become a consideration for many employees.
Findings of the University of Birmingham Survey
Within the survey done by the University of Birmingham, the data that was collected was then analysed through four key areas listed below.
• Managers’ Attitudes to Flexible Working
They have found that managers are feeling optimistic about flexible working since the lifting of pandemic restrictions. Among the participants, 51.8% agreed that concentration has improved and 59.5% agreed that productivity has also improved. On top of that, an increase in motivation has also been expressed by 62.8% of the managers involved.
• Managers’ Plans for Flexible Working in the Future
Although many believe that flexible working is beneficial, only 58% of the managers believe their employer would allow for flexible working styles in the future – down from 2020 numbers of 70%. However, this is not shared with part-time and job share requests which managers believe will be more supported than in 2020, particularly for more senior positions.
• Spatial Flexibility and Office Space
They have found that 69.3% of managers do not expect their employees to work in the office for more than four days a week – an increase from 59% in 2021. Additionally, 33.7% admit that their workplaces have reduced or are planning to reduce office spaces.
• Consultation and Surveillance in the Workplace
In terms of regular feedback on employee performance, 64.7% of managers are now providing them which is an increase compared to the 2021 numbers of 59.6%. Consultations in the workplace between employees and their employers are now found to be conducted informally by 46.6% of managers.
The attitudes on workplace surveillance varied – 34.7% of managers said monitoring and recording calls were acceptable. It was also found that 42.9% of managers believe that it is acceptable to monitor work emails, files and browser history. However, only 11.2% said that monitoring social media is acceptable.