According to data that’s just been released by LinkedIn (see disclosure below), there are signs the ‘new normal’ of flexible working could become a permanent thing. With vast numbers of employees having been working remotely since March, the social media network for professionals has seen a huge surge in searches for jobs that are advertised as flexible.
Having sampled flexi-working, it seems many employees don’t want to go back to the old way of doing things. The rigid, permanently workplace-based, nine to five, five day a week job with an unnecessary commute has been seen for what it is: Outdated.
LinkedIn has analysed data between March and June of this year and discovered:
- Job searches for remote working have increased by 60% globally since March
- Within the UK, views of remote jobs are two-and-a-half times higher today compared to March and
- Applications for these roles have increased 189%.
LinkedIn has gone further still and quizzed 2,000 working UK adults to find out how remote working during the pandemic has affected them. According to the results:
- Almost a quarter, 24% had more time for exercise and
- 17% felt they were eating more healthily.
Writing a blog like this, it goes without saying I am all about the family and improving work / life balance. It turns out 44% of those quizzed said working from home had made them feel more connected to their family. While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused so much upset to so many people, it is great to see one or two unexpected positives come from it.
This is not a one-way street
You could be forgiven for thinking this paints a picture that’s just a little too rosy. The focus has to be on the needs of both employers and employees for flexible working and remote working to be a success.
You could be forgiven for thinking employers would resist any changes but that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening. Employers are appreciating the benefit of having a remote, agile workforce. Postings for remote jobs on are up by 277% since March. Added to this, employees are, on average, reporting that they are doing 28 hours of monthly overtime.
LinkedIn hasn’t alluded as to why employees are doing this much overtime, but I have a suspicion it is related to the lack of commute. If people aren’t commuting to a workplace each and every day, they are probably using some of the time they would usually be travelling to work.
The view from elsewhere
LinkedIn’s data is very interesting, but it is only one source. I decided to speak to Cheney Hamilton, Chief Executive of the FindYourFlex.co.uk job listing network to find out what the picture was for them (small declaration of interest, I have just been appointed as a contributor to the FindYourFlex group of websites, my first article will be online very soon!).
As it happens, Hamilton’s view largely mirrors LinkedIn’s: “In May alone we saw applications increase by 74% from April, and we are seeing a further 64% growth in the numbers of applications received in June versus May!
“In addition to this we are also seeing the audience share of users aged between 18 and 25 quadruple in size, from 3% to 15% of all traffic. More men are seeking flexible working opportunities, going from 10% of audience share pre-lockdown to 30% in May, showing that flexible working really has moved on from the working mum narrative of old.”
A couple of things Cheney said really piqued my interest. Firstly, the increase in 18 to 25 year olds looking for flexible work mirrors the findings of the DaddiLife Millennial Dad at Work Report that was published last year. That report showed Millennial dads put much greater value on working flexibly than other generations, so jobs will need to be designed flexibly to appeal to this age group.
Secondly, Hamilton notes the sharp increase in men wanting to work flexibly. Men have often been reluctant to ask about working this way, fearing how it would be viewed by their bosses. Now that men have had to work flexibly and experienced the benefits of doing so, they seem keen to keep this option open, a move that would benefit women, men and their families as men would be around more at home and able to assist with childcare and domestic chores.
What do dads think of this new way or working? I spoke to Ian Dinwiddy who runs the Inspiring Dads coaching service for fathers who want to get a better work life balance. He pointed out that not every job is suitable for flexible working, but made clear demand for such roles has clearly increased.
“One of the rays of sunshine and hope in the bleakest days of lockdown was that my clients were, despite financial issues, furlough and fear, united in a belief that the enormous (though flawed) experiment in remote and home working was shining a light on a new world. It was a world where dads were able to be the active and involved fathers they always wanted to be. While a great experiment, it was flawed as dads and mums are having to homeschool children at the same time putting families under enormous strain..
“Remote and flexible working isn’t always suitable for either employer or employee but it’s amazing to see studies revealing the scale to which the Covid crisis has created an insatiable demand for improved flexibility, building upon the mental and physical health benefits that many have experienced so far”
Must ensure flexible working is here to stay
The impact of COVID-19 on working culture has been immense. Employees are enjoying the benefits of working from home, connecting more with their families and leading a healthier lifestyle. The lack of travelling to work, meanwhile, means less environmental damage is being done.
Employees are looking for flexible roles and employers seem to be responding to this. Now is the time to press for change and ensure that flexible working becomes the norm in jobs where it can be done. If we don’t push for that change now, I fear we may slide back into the old way of working, where presenteeism ruled and a higher value was placed on men’s labour, leaving men, particularly fathers trapped in the workforce and women trapped behind the kitchen sink and holding the children.
COVID-19 has been a seismic, world event. It’s been dreadful, but hopefully a more flexible, agile, equitable way of working for all will be the result.
Disclosure: I am involved with the LinkedIn #Changemakers partnership. This is a 12-month campaign shining a spotlight on individuals who are using LinkedIn to drive genuine change in the world of work and I am campaigning to improve access to flexible working. I was not under any obligation to produce this post and have not been compensated for doing so. To find out more about the partnership, read more here.