Does Working-From-Home Really Work?

Our blog recently explored the disconnect between the media view on working from home (WFH) and the popular view of flexibility as expressed by most employees. Most people enjoy more flexibility in their work environment, so it sometimes feels odd to see the media – especially newspapers – saying that a return to 2019 is what we should all be wishing for.

The underlying question for employers and employees is really ‘does working-from-home really work?’

The simple answer is that it depends. The problem is that there are a number of variables measuring success. It may look different depending on your perspective, employer or employee? It may look different depending on the demographic mix of your workforce – parents have different needs compared to young employees just starting their career. It may also just be different because of the type of job – some types of career have traditionally relied in in-person mentoring and guidance and they may not have figured out a better way to train new recruits.

On top of all these uncertainties are the outcomes – how do you really measure WFH success? Are employees more satisfied? Do more of them stay for longer so your recruitment costs go down? Does it make you a more attractive employer so it’s easier to find people? Does it reduce employee stress?

All the above is true, but the emphasis will change from one company to another. Prior to the Covid pandemic we surveyed a whole bunch of WFH employees to see how they were feeling. The results are interesting because they highlight some of the WFH advantages that employees really value.

For example, 70.7% actively chose home working to improve their work-life balance. 68.2% did not want to waste their day commuting to work. In fact, 85.9% confirmed that they incur no work travel costs at all now.

50.5% confirmed that they can work multiple shifts during a day, which shows that WFH is about flexibility – not just avoiding a commute. By working from home it is possible to work a few hours, take a break to manage some other responsibilities (kids or other caring tasks), and then do another shift later in the day.

Only 2% of the survey respondents met colleagues in-person daily, which is to be expected as their work is based from home, but it’s interesting to see that 79.2% confirm that they enjoy in-person meet-ups with colleagues at least every month.

On the corporate side of the results, our survey found that business continuity works far better – Covid reinforced that point – scheduling flexibility is far easier with workers based at home, employees are happier and more productive, and there is a dramatic reduction in the corporate carbon footprint.

That was 2020. So what is the latest research saying? Professor Nick Bloom from Stanford University is one of the best-known experts on companies that use WFH employees – he and his team have been researching this in detail for over a decade now. They regularly publish their latest research on the website wfhresearch.com.

The latest paper was published in June 2023, so it’s still fairly recent. In terms of employee expectations it is clear that all over the world most employees wants flexible work arrangements. A survey of over 42,000 people showed that the average employee wants to work a minimum of around 2 days away from the office – most employers are still offering less flexibility than employees now want.

But WFH also changes attitudes to work. Professor Bloom published different analysis of how employees react to sickness. Of those expected to be in their office, 76% will push on and go to work even when they are sick. 39% will still work if they can stay at home. This demonstrates that the power of presenteeism remains strong – if work is office based then it remains important to just be seen, even if you are too sick to be productive.

The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted that when it’s hard to find skilled people, flexibility over working arrangements is the easiest way to attract more recruits. Forget increasing pay, just allow your team the flexibility to stay at home when they want and you will attract more people.

European and US data on productivity is also closely correlated with an increase in working from home. The more that companies facilitate flexible working, the more productive their employees are. This has accelerated since the pandemic forced many more companies to explore home working options.

We know from discussions with our own clients that they love the WFH options provided by Sensée. An often-repeated figure is an efficiency gain of about 30% when working with customer service advisers based in their own home.

But efficiency is not the main driver here. We started out by asking whether WFH really works? What are the academics saying? What is the evidence from detailed research and what are our own employees saying?

It’s easy to find individual examples of employment that can’t be performed from home. Anything that needs in-person attendance by default, such as a doctor or shop worker, can’t even be discussed or compared. However, for office-based professional jobs – such as customer service – there is now a mountain of evidence showing that employees are happier with more flexibility and this also works out better for the employer too.

Pockets of the media are still calling for a return to 2019, but with all this evidence now available the simple response to all these headlines is now just a simple, why?

People Want Flexible Jobs But The Media Keeps Telling Us ‘Get Back To Normal’ – Who Is Right?

Individual employees have different opinions about working from home (WFH). Some believe it is more productive and saves them time wasted during a commute. Others believe that it isn’t possible to concentrate on work at home. The presenter of ‘Wake Up To Money’ on BBC Radio 5 could recently be heard saying that when he tries working from home he spends all day on Netflix.

This variation in personal opinion usually depends on personal experience. If you ask a group of friends this question then it’s likely you will get a variety of responses – unless all your friends are drawn from people with the same type of job.

So what has the media been saying? 

Through the pandemic there was plenty of discussion and argument about the government response, but there was generally broad agreement on working from home. It reduced exposure to the virus so it was a good idea at that time. Now there is a more mixed response.

Although the Washington Post is based in the US, there was a very interesting recent opinion piece by Michael Bloomberg – founder of the Bloomberg media company and former mayor of New York City. Mr Bloomberg almost yells at the reader to get back to normal. He says: “The pandemic is over. Excuses for allowing offices to sit empty should end, too.” His own company is reducing all flexibility and expecting people to be back in the office once again.

This negativity about working from home has also been reflected in The Economist. A June 2023 article titled ‘The working-from-home illusion fades’ reports that new research shows a 4% decline in efficiency for companies that allow employees to work from home.

The Daily Mail reported in May 2023 that almost half of the UK Civil Service calls their residence their main workplace. The first line of the story called the numbers ‘shocking figures.’ It’s easy to determine what the Daily Mail thinks of home-based government employees because the story states ‘also known as the blob’ when referring to the Civil Service.

If you scan the headlines there is a lot of anger at the continued availability of flexible working options – including the right to work from home. These leading media outlets continually attack organisations that are allowing employees to work from home and Michael Bloomberg’s views have been echoed in the UK by cabinet ministers and British business leaders.

But why all this anger?

Most people that are not worried about filling an expensive office seem to think that flexibility is good. Even the headline writers surely value some flexibility in their own work environment? Data from LinkedIn indicates that a third of British employees would quit if their employer insisted on a complete return to the office.

It is now two years since the last Covid lockdown in the UK. Very few employers insisted on a return to the practices of 2019. Flexibility and the ability to work from home when in-person work is not essential is now seen as a right by most  – despite all those negative headlines.

The UK is something of a paradox though. We have retained more work from home flexibility than any other country in Europe and yet we also work more hours than almost all of our neighbours. The WFH debate is actually far more complex than those media headlines might lead readers to believe. Many younger workers prefer to visit an office because it creates social opportunities – a pint after work – and parents with young children value the freedom to not commute. There are as many reasons to support working from home or working from an office as there are employees. 

However, the consensus is that allowing employees the flexibility to choose should be retained as the future for everyone. A July 2023 government press release was headlined: “Millions to benefit from new flexible working measures.”

This was the announcement that the Flexible Working Bill has now been passed into law. It grants employees the flexibility over where and when they work and the right to make requests for flexible work options is available from day one in a new job. Different jobs and different preferences and responsibilities mean that the reality is different for everyone – being flexible is the option that offers the best outcomes for most employees.

The UK government has officially backed flexibility and made it law. Most employees welcome flexibility – it’s optional so those who prefer working from an office also have that choice. The data from most studies of working from home demonstrate that it is easier to hire people when you offer flexible work options, it’s more productive, and people suffer less stress. In general, all the research indicators show that the more flexibility offered, the better the outcomes.

How does the overwhelmingly positive academic research into work flexibility and the new Flexible Working Bill square with the endless calls from headline writers in the media urging us all to just ‘get back to normal!’? 

Perhaps there is an editorial agenda that is not obvious – advertiser preference or just the editorial opinion that ‘normal’ work is performed at a physical place of work? Or perhaps it is just the media reflecting a traditional view of ‘work’ and ‘home’ and failing to appreciate the modern reality – most people are embracing flexibility and don’t look back at the old days with rose-tinted glasses. Work is now the tasks we undertake, regardless of whether it is done inside an office or factory.

Whatever the reason, the media looks out of touch. British employees are not rushing back to commuter trains and a rushed sandwich at a desk. Flexible working is here to stay – even the government has made sure of that.

(CCMA Webinar) Hybrid Working in the Contact Centre 2024

Date: Thu 14 Sep 2023
Time: 12:00 – 13:00
Chair: Leigh Hopwood, CCMA

Hybrid working is now the norm in the contact centre industry. It’s not unusual for an operation to offer frontline colleagues the opportunity to work-from-home for some, if not most of their working time. Is there a genuine best practice approach to hybrid working?

We’ll explore what the fundamentals of hybrid working are, the models that are surfacing as most effective and the challenges and opportunities hybrid working is bringing to the contact centre in 2023 and beyond.

Here’s what the debate will include:

  • Building team morale through engagement
  • Recruitment and retention in a hybrid world
  • Coaching, learning and career development
  • Scheduling and forecasting with flexible working

To help us have an interactive debate that will furnish you with ideas and inspiration, we have brought together some of our industry leaders who have both experience and opinions on this. Join Leigh as she leads the discussion with Paul Whymark, COO, Sensée, and a panel of contact centre leaders.

Register for the event

New World of Work Employment Contracts Could Have Far-Reaching Consequences 

One of the largest ever experiments with work took place during the Covid pandemic – namely, that most office workers started working from home. Many are still working from home today, or they have agreed on a flexible ‘hybrid’ work style that allows them to mix time in the office with time at home.

But although this has been the most visible change to the way people work, there has been a more subtle shift in the psychological contract between employers and employees.

Work itself has changed. Many workers that were always paid by the hour found that they could change their contract to reflect delivery or output – not time. Many found that they wanted to have complete control over their working hours and working location.

GitHub is a good example. It’s a service that allows software coders to store the code they are working on – so they can go back to earlier versions or keep track of what is changing when multiple people are working together. The company was always focused on working from home, but when they started out the founders designed the company as a completely flat structure – everyone at every level was a manager with the autonomy to choose what they work on.

Eventually some middle-management was introduced, but this was not because projects were out of control. It was in response to harassment allegations directed at the senior management team. Junior employees needed some rules to protect them from the founders. Fairly soon after this time, Microsoft acquired the company.

GitHub shows that there needs to be a balance. Nobody wants to work in an environment where you have no agency at all, where management decides what you are doing, when, and how long you can take as a break. Complete freedom to choose what you want to work on sounds like a utopia compared to this.

But not everyone is suited to work in a completely free environment. We have all had colleagues that coast along, doing as little as possible without getting fired. These people often work in teams where other people put in far more effort than their job description calls for.

There was a period immediately after the pandemic that academics now call The Great Resignation. It is actually an ongoing trend, but the effect was most noticeable in 2021 and early 2022. The name describes what has been happening, many more people than usual are leaving their jobs. The monthly average number of resignations in the US at present is about 4 million a month – a decade ago it was half that.

Many commentators now attribute this to the changing psychological contract. An employer expects a hard-working and reliable employee. An employee expects fair wages and working hours. However, these basic expectations are being revised. More and more workers are expecting autonomy over their working location, working hours, and they expect their employer to be helping them to develop their career.

They also want to work for employers that are making a positive difference to their local community or the environment. Executives publishing Environmental, Social, and corporate Governance targets are often doing it to be seen as a more attractive employer, not just for the good of taking these actions.

The employee expectation that working from home should continue was only the beginning of this change. They now have many more expectations.

The ultimate vision for some will be the gig economy. Highly skilled people can sell their services to multiple clients, rather than giving all their time to a single employer. This even works in the customer service environment, where analysts have been exploring GigCX for a few years now.

But while the gig economy may be attractive to some, it will not be attractive to others. Not everyone wants to be completely freelance and dependent on gigs that may or may not arrive. It offers a vision of complete freedom, but also a complete lack of income if there is a quiet month.

What could well become increasingly common is something that Sensée has been working towards for several years: employees with employment contracts, salary and benefits, and the confidence of knowing what they will be paid each month, but with the flexibility to work from home and choose their working hours. Indeed our childrens’ kids generation may laugh at the very notion of people commuting to the same office everyday using the same train or stuck in the same traffic jam.

This flexibility also allows us to start re-thinking how urban populations are formed. Major cities created suburbs almost entirely because the railways arrived and offered the opportunity to live away from the workplace. Most of us don’t even think about cities as being designed for commuters.

If the expectations on commuting and working hours change dramatically then maybe people will be happier living in smaller communities, where previously it was difficult to find employment opportunities.

A wave of change is coming. This reset in employee expectations will lead to many changes in how companies – and cities – function in the near future.

(Webinar) Hybrid Working Management and Communications

WEDNESDAY JULY 26TH, 12 – 1PM

In this online event, Sensée Team Leaders and Managers will discuss how they overcome challenges in managing remote teams – as well as help webinar attendees resolve their burning New World Of Work issues.

Subjects covered will include how to:

  • Maintain effective team working and morale
  • Look after the health and well being of remote workers
  • Ensure good communications so that your whole team is informed, engaged and on the same page
  • Create fun events (games, competitions, online groups) that keep colleagues close and engaged
  • Enable homeworkers to self-schedule shifts for a better work-life-balance

Register for the Webinar

Boost Diversity And Inclusion By Embracing WFH

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) has long been understood to be a valuable way of introducing new ideas and innovation into companies. More voices from more diverse backgrounds creates space for a better understanding of your customers.

It’s also great for the bottom line. It is not just the right thing to do for your team, it can also lead to better business outcomes. D&I ensures that you don’t have a team that all think the same way because they are drawn from a very narrow group of people. 

It enhances creativity and cultural awareness and ultimately it will make your company more profitable – that’s what the experts at McKinsey have found.

But often when people write articles about diversity and inclusion there is a caveat – it’s difficult to get it right. It requires the HR team to align on a broader corporate strategy. It requires more effort during recruitment. Even when corporate leaders know that it is important, they often find it hard to achieve.

There is an easier way. Offer people the opportunity to work from home (WFH) and you will naturally start attracting a more diverse group of people to your company.

How can it be this simple?

First, think again about what we really mean by diversity and inclusion. The immediate response if you ask someone to define this strategy is that the company needs to attract a wider variety of people from different ethnicities and religions. However, this is a very narrow approach to D&I and misses some vital opportunities.

Contact centres provide a very clear example. When a contact centre relies on people working from an office then it is only possible to recruit people within commuting distance of the office – so diversity already depends on the area where the contact centre is located.

In addition, most contact centres with a requirement to work in-office focus on young people at the start of their career. The contact centre is seen as a gateway to jobs in sales, marketing, or customer service management so this emphasis on hiring young people self-perpetuates.

Now consider the WFH alternative for a contact centre service. 

There is no need to commute so the jobs on offer are available to people with a disability that makes it a challenge to commute twice a day. There is no need to be sitting in an office full of young people, so people of all ages with a variety of skills can be approached – including retired people who want to work flexible part-time hours.

Offering flexible hours from home also means that people with caring responsibilities, such as parents or carers for elderly relatives, can also contribute. They might not be able to work 8 hours a day, but a four-hour shift in the middle of the day could be exactly what you need to boost agents during the lunchtime peak.

All these people are usually excluded from the traditional workplace that demands an office commute and then a long shift at a single location. Working mums, long-term home carers, wheelchair users, and the recently retired. They can all participate fully in work if they have the flexibility to work from home.

Meta, the huge tech company responsible for Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, achieved their own goals for diversity and inclusion two years early because of remote working. McKinsey research has found that many underrepresented groups of employees have a strong preference for home working because it levels the playing field – they don’t need to be in an office full of people that look or feel ‘different’, they can just focus on the work that needs to be done.

It is clear that office-based jobs attract a certain type of employee – diversity is traditionally low because the employees must all share the same values. They must be willing to commute for work. They must live near their employer. They must be prepared to dedicate a solid block of time everyday to being in the office. There is very little flexibility in this traditional view of how professional work is organised.

The ability to work from home creates many more possibilities than just allowing your team to work without requiring a commute. It allows you to recruit from anywhere, which also means you can raise the bar on who joins the team. If they can be recruited from anywhere across the country – or even internationally – then you can afford to look only for the best potential team members.

It also creates the opportunity for much more diversity in the team. The contact centre example makes it clear that many different groups of people could become available if this flexibility is on offer. The opportunity exists beyond contact centres alone – as the success at Meta indicates – which then leads to an obvious question: if you are not already promoting diversity and inclusion by allowing team members to work from home then why not?

Can AI Play A Role In Coaching And Mental Health Support For Employees?

Most of the recent media coverage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has focused on the possibility that jobs will be completely replaced by AI. During the Covid pandemic, the relatively sober ‘Economist’ featured a headline suggesting that robots may be about to take your job. IBM announced a freeze on hiring where AI could replace the open position – potentially thousands of roles will be replaced.

Most of the media coverage is hyperbole, particularly in jobs where human empathy is still valued. Although there are many sections of the customer journey that can be handled by self service, when a customer really needs urgent help there is still nothing better than a reassuring voice. Many customer service interactions still require this human engagement, so we are not about to see a widespread replacement of contact centre agents just yet.

However, there are some interesting ways that AI can help agents in the contact centre. It can become a virtual assistant, taking notes and summarising calls. It can monitor customer sentiment and the quality of the interaction, so all calls can be checked for quality rather than just a random selection. AI can access information that the agent and customer are talking about, so there is no need to place the customer on hold while the agent performs a manual search.

All this can boost productivity and improve the customer experience (CX). However, I think there is another area that could be extremely positive for remote agents that are working from home: coaching and personalised guidance.

Remote agents will naturally not have a team leader by their side. Their managers are probably monitoring most of their activities through dashboards and real-time reports, rather than listening to a large number of the actual customer calls.

This can create a gap for the coaching process. Detractors of home working often say that it does not facilitate in-person learning or coaching and it isn’t possible for a team leader to spot when problems are developing.

But this is rather different with AI. The content, context, and sentiment of each call can be analysed and the agent can be guided to specific training workshops that will help them to boost any weaker areas of their performance. This can also be a useful way to monitor mental health, to see if the agent is behaving unusually or has a different attitude to normal.

Some might think that this monitoring and real-time guiding and coaching has an air of ‘Big Brother’ – an all-seeing intelligence that misses nothing. This is a natural concern and some companies do have form – remember all the web cams deployed during the pandemic because paranoid managers were unsure how to manage people they could not see?

Companies are already exploring how AI monitoring can help to reduce stress at work. Software already exists to help identify when remote workers may be feeling isolated – it automatically connects people to their colleagues if they are identified as lonely.

Some may fear a new era of control and supervision, where AI can read brain patterns and know what you are thinking. However, this is over-analysing the situation. Just like many other tools, AI can be used productively or in a more controlling fashion.

Think back to those webcams. They are great for remote agents that want to feel more connected to their team. Audio-only calls now feel a little odd for many office workers – we are used to talking with our colleagues on camera and engaging in meetings where we can see multiple colleagues on camera.

This connectivity and team-building is positive. Taking still photos at random times to check your employees are at their desk is not. It shows a lack of trust and an inability to manage people using tools such as a virtual office – see our LiveDesk for a good example.

Likewise with mental health monitoring. If companies start scanning every spoken or typed word for signs that their employee is under stress then it should only be driven by the desire to help employees when they are stressed.

AI – and in particular generative AI – can play an important role in supporting employees and helping them to cope with periods of stress or anxiety. In a contact centre environment it can be used to identify stress triggers and can offer coaching that may help to avoid difficult situations – all personalised for the individual.

Some companies deal with stress by running training sessions on ‘managing stress’ rather than dealing with the root cause of the problem. We are now creating technology systems that are becoming smart enough to identify when there are problems and what may be the cause.

Enlightened companies and managers will see this as an opportunity to support their team. There will be some less principled use of these technologies as monitoring systems, but the companies that deploy technology in this way will soon realise that they are driving their own employees away.

We have a choice how to use tools such as AI. Where it can offer support and positive individual coaching we should embrace it and look to the future.

Could the Digital Workspace be the Killer Business App The Metaverse has been waiting for?

The history of killer apps is fascinating because each time one is discovered it can entirely change how we use a device or gadget. The first documented killer app was the Visicalc spreadsheet for the Apple II computer. Released in 1979 it was such a compelling tool that people bought the computer just so they could use the software.

The same thing happened to the IBM PC when the spreadsheet Lotus 1-2-3 and word processor WordStar were released. These business tools were so important that users went and bought the hardware they needed to use them.

More recently, software such as Netscape’s Navigator made it easy to browse the web in 1994 and in the late nineties Napster made it easy to share music online. Time and time again, software can influence the hardware we all use and change how people behave and interact.

The most recent example where this was expected to happen was the metaverse. For the past few years Mark Zuckerberg’s company, Meta, has been investing tens of billions of dollars into the idea that the next iteration of the internet will be immersive and visual. We will all need to use the Meta Quest headset as we all use our iPhones today.

According to the Wall Street Journal, however,  the plan has failed to reach its goals. Meta had expected to have 500,000 regular users of its flagship metaverse environment ‘Horizon Worlds’ by the end of 2022, yet the reality is less than 200,000. Almost all users that try it don’t last more than a month. The number of users is declining, rather than growing. Even Meta employees don’t use it.

Considering that over 5 billion people now regularly use the internet, this is disappointing. Whatever does come next will need to meet the requirements of billions of users.

Cost is one major factor. A Meta headset is likely to set you back over $1,000 so you need to be a committed early adopter to really want to experience the metaverse at present.

However, I think there is a more important reason – there is no killer app. If you look at the original launch ad for Horizon Worlds it features people beekeeping in a virtual world, cooking Japanese food, and playing golf. When Mark Zuckerberg appeared in some demo videos he was playing cards with friends in a gravity-free environment and talking of being able to hang out with friends online.

Nobody has ever said that they want to get home from a tough day at work to then pull on a VR headset and spend the evening farming virtual honey from virtual bees. Everyone that does enjoy socialising online usually has a specific reason to be in whatever system they are using – usually a game like Roblox or Fortnite where you can play and talk to friends at the same time.

These are games. People have a reason to be in that environment because they want to play the game. The metaverse, as it exists, has no strong purpose. It costs a lot to participate and there is nothing pulling people in and saying ‘you have to be a part of this.’ Do people really wants to go online to just hang out?

However, there is one idea that I believe may be important for companies like Meta – the workplace.

Modern work is more fragmented than it was before the pandemic. Now it’s common to have people working from the office, from home, from a cafe or airport, and everyone is on the same team and connected using various business tools such as Slack or Teams.

At Sensée we use LiveDesk to bring our teams together. It is effectively a metaverse, a virtual office, where people can see their colleagues, work with them or just socialise with them. It creates a much stronger sense of the team working together as one.

This doesn’t require VR headsets, but then our team probably would not enjoy having to wear one all day. Many people experience nausea from motion sickness when using them anyway.

A digital workspace like LiveDesk reflects how people are working in the 2020s. We are rarely sitting side by side with colleagues today – often we may be working alongside colleagues that are not even in the same country. However, if we can see them in our shared virtual office then the team building becomes real.

Perhaps the digital workspace will be the saviour of the metaverse concept, but then it could be Microsoft with their Teams and LinkedIn platforms that beats Meta to the initial business-focused market. Only time will tell.

We already have our own solution and we know that when clients see it they can’t understand how remote work can be managed any other way. Perhaps the digital workspace is the spreadsheet of the 2020s? The killer app that will help people become used to operating in virtual worlds. It certainly isn’t going to be a game of virtual table tennis or beekeeping.

New Work Patterns Are Emerging And They Are Largely Positive

The 2023 Gallagher ‘State of the Sector’ report is a survey of over 2000 HR and internal communication professionals. It highlights some very interesting recent changes in the nature of the traditional employee and employer relationship.

There were nine themes that came out of the research, but let’s just look at a few of the broader ones because some are very much focused on internal communications:

  • The rise of culture and belonging. Three quarters of the survey said the purpose of internal communication is to support culture and belonging. Internal communication was always first and foremost about communicating strategy and creating alignment around an organisation’s vision and purpose. This has always been true, but it was clear that creating a corporate culture and sense of belonging is now more prevalent and important than ever.
  • Reinventing the employee-employer relationship. Just over half of the survey respondents have started to revisit their employee value proposition. Existing value propositions have limited effects, because only just over half rated employee understanding of compensation, rewards and benefits as excellent or good.
  • Being a force for good in the world. Although 41% said they have a clear ESG strategy in place, most organisations still are struggling to strategically deploy ESG communications and share their views on sustainability. They instead choose to focus exclusively on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Taken together this all looks like quite a change in the traditional employer and employee relationship. In fact, employers have almost always held the upper hand in this relationship as they offer jobs to employees – they are making the monthly salary payments. However, as these three trends demonstrate, people want something more from their employer today than just a salary at the end of the month.

Employees want their employer to appreciate what drives them, what makes them arrive at work each day – often it isn’t the salary. They want to feel that they belong to an organisation that share similar beliefs, a culture that feels positive. They want to feel that the broad power of their organisation is doing some good in the world, for the environment, or diversity and inclusion.

Some employers are responding to this change – many are not. During the period of the Great Resignation it appeared essential for employers to listen carefully to their employees, but now there is a great deal of economic uncertainty almost everywhere it feels like the power dynamic is shifting again.

Some commentators are suggesting that skilled employees will give up on traditional jobs completely by embracing the gig economy. Traditionally most people have looked at these jobs as fairly precarious and without a requirement for specific skills – delivering pizza or driving a taxi. However, platforms such as UpWork and Fiverr are creating a place where highly skilled individuals can offer their services one task at a time.

The gig economy will become more important, but I can’t see a world in which every highly skilled worker prefers gigs to a solid employment contract with a single employer. Most people want the assurance of knowing they can pay their bills each month.

However, there are a few important changes in the employer and employee relationship that I believe are becoming more important for all executives to appreciate if they want to attract the best people, including:

  • More work is outcome-based. Some jobs need to be based on time performing a task – such as a food server has to be available when a restaurant is open – but many employers are finding that if they manage people based on output, rather than time at a desk, then it works better for both – even in the traditional salaried environment. This changes the management approach to focus on who is really delivering value, rather than who is present at their desk all the time.
  • Agency. One of the most common reasons for people to quit their job is that their manager does not listen to them or does not give them any scope to make their own decisions – they have no agency or control over their working day.
  • New working patterns. People want a greater ability to control the days and hours that they work. In the customer service environment this has been achieved by companies such as Sensée by modelling the coverage we need in 30-minute intervals through the day and then asking our team to sign up for specific shifts based on the hours available. It allows the team more flexibility and ensures we can offer better coverage for our clients too.
  • ESG. Environmental, social, and corporate governance goals may just sound like an update of corporate social responsibility, but it really matters today. Employees are looking to ESG statements to give them an indication that this company is worth working for. Customers are also making purchasing decisions based on ESG and investors are too – nobody can seriously seek business funding today without a solid ESG plan in place.

There is a general move to a more flexible work environment. People are working from home or with hybrid contracts more often. They are also working more flexible hours with the ability to change their working hours fairly easily.

All this was not imaginable in professional jobs a couple of decades ago where fixed office hours had to be tolerated and colleagues would be called ‘part-time’ if they left the office on time.

Work is becoming more flexible and more meaningful. All this is very positive. The gig economy is also offering greater flexibility to those who are happy to work with a lower level of security, but with a greater potential upside. People want to believe in what they are doing at work and they also want employers to leave them to get on with the job.

(New eBook) The Team Leader Role in a Hybrid World

Think you understand what it takes to be a great Team Leader?

Well think again… because the switch to home & hybrid working is bringing about major changes in the way organisations view the role.

• In an office setting, Team Leaders must be managers, supervisors, motivators and enforcers (!) – as well as providers of practical support (especially when it comes to problem solving, knowledge and delivering emotional support)

• In a work-from-home setting, all those qualities still apply. But, in addition, they have an even more important role to play in employee engagement, communication, health and well-being support, and building team culture (WHEREVER people work)

So what makes a great Team Leader?

Read the eBook (no need to register)