Why companies need to implement flexible work models

Candidates are willing to leave good jobs for better benefits such as hybrid work and a work-from-anywhere policy

Salary and benefits are an important part of a job, but the younger generation is more serious about having flexibility. Getty Images
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What does work-life balance mean to you? Are employers in touch with employee needs?

Work-life balance is a term that has become more prevalent in recent years. I had never heard of it when I joined the corporate world in London more than 20 years ago.

Employees then had an expectation of a set working day that would not differ much from company to company.

In recent years, employers have evolved – along with human resource policies – to meet the rising importance of employee engagement. Workers’ needs are being fulfilled and companies are taking this subject a lot more seriously.

Having a balance between working and personal lives is different for everyone, so it’s difficult to define a policy that works for all, but the one thing that most people will look for right now is flexibility.

The model that I was familiar with during the early days of my career was the 8:30am to 6pm, office-based role with a strict hour for lunch, and a 10-minute break in the morning and another in the afternoon.

Anyone who left on the bell at 6pm was met with a sarcastic round of applause for being the first to leave!

While this rigid, organised and heavily micro-managed environment helped install a hard-working ethic and a great training ground, the thought of working in this environment for most would seem like a nightmare today.

Believe it or not, there are still offices operating like this today, but they are few and far between.

Some of these are very highly paid, and unsurprisingly, it’s the only reason why people stay.

As a business leader, I have tried to install a hard-working ethos, but with the ability for individuals to manage their time for themselves.

Personally, I prefer to work in the office nearly all the time if I am not meeting clients, but if someone can be more effective working from home sometimes, then why not?

I recently approached a very senior leader in a leading technology company about a role with a smaller business, initially thinking they might not be looking to leave.

As it turned out, this individual was open to a move because the work environment was becoming much more rigid, and they were required to travel from their home in one emirate to another every day.

To cut a long story short, this candidate accepted the role with my client. Partly due to the growth opportunity, but a big factor was the location and, more importantly, the environment, which includes hybrid working, a work-from-anywhere policy and many other benefits.

It is surprising to see that big companies are reverting to old practices. Companies such as Boeing and UPS recently announced they expect workers back in the office five days a week.

Even IBM in the US now wants managers to be at their desk for a minimum of three days a week, regardless of how far they live from the office.

It remains to be seen if this will lead to another “Great Resignation” like we saw post Covid-19.

We have seen a slowdown in recruitment in most sectors since then, but the job market is picking up.

The example I cited above indicates that candidates will leave a very good job for more flexible working conditions, and this will continue.

Salary and benefits are always an important part of any job, but the younger generation in particular is more serious about having flexibility.

The days of working in the same office for 40 years until retirement are long gone.

People are much more able and willing to travel, see new countries and cultures and do not want to be chained to a desk for most of their working lives.

Employers need to be more accommodating with regards to the workplace and their staff, and the better ones out there are doing just that.

For most candidates that I speak to, a flexible organisation that lets employees achieve results with the right balance of being able to manage their personal lives is a powerful selling point.

I hope that more companies will continue to adapt to these forward-thinking ways of working.

To the ones that don’t, they are a great hunting ground for recruiters.

John Armstrong is founder and managing director of JCA Associates

Updated: April 18, 2024, 4:00 AM