Flexibility on the Front Line
The Covid pandemic has caused much uncertainty, yet one thing is clear; the workforce will never look the same again.
It has been a test of adaptability for employers since the pandemic, not least in rapidly adhering to lockdown mandates, staying abreast of changing safety requirements and finding the right balance between working from home and encouraging the return of employees to the workplace to support economic recovery. Many businesses have managed to navigate the challenges this presents in labour demand volatility, productivity, and fluctuating profitability in the face of disruption. Others, sadly, have not made it out the other side.
Employees have also faced the turmoil of managing health concerns, lengthy family separations, children being home-schooled, travel restrictions, disruptive technology advancement, and job requirements evolving at a rapid pace, all while balancing the pressure on income security from significant increases to the cost of living.
One thing we have collectively learned is that although we are now trying to return to some level of normality, the labour landscape will never again look the same.
Many employees and job seekers have reassessed work and life balance. Increasing quality family time and maintaining physical and mental wellbeing is more front of mind than ever before, contributing to a significant spike in flexible work from home requests. A spotlight is on the increasing need for employers to accommodate the rising demand in work from home expectations, not just for safety reasons surrounding reducing the spread of Covid, but to compete in a market where candidate shortages are impacting every industry at a national level. Unemployment is at a 48-year low and migration has seen a net decrease in over 88,000 people in the 2020/2021 financial year. However, when it comes to flexibility, focusing on evolving home-based work strategies is not the only consideration, especially for a company like Serco who specialises in providing critical government services and support for vulnerable citizens in areas including healthcare, defence, and justice and immigration.
Work from home expectations cannot be so readily accommodated in many front-line essential jobs, however, flexibility can still be enhanced in other employment conditions to improve the employee value proposition. Variable shift patterns, ability to buy back or cash in leave, individualised benefits packages, and upskilling programs enhancing career opportunities can be enormously beneficial to improve talent attraction, retention, and wellbeing at work.
“The spotlight on employers needs to be shone not on work from home, but on more comprehensive expectations of the workforce of the future.”
Ultimately, successful businesses are finding ways to carefully balance the need to remain sustainable as a business while creating choice for employees through more flexible employment conditions.
By Kelly Van Nelson
Managing Director, Operations Asia Pacific, Serco