The big flexible working divide

Some CEOs still don’t seem to be listening to their employees when it comes to flexible working, despite emerging evidence of the positive impact of hybrid working on women’s career prospects.

Office desk with note saying "flexible working"


Last week there was depressing news on the remote and hybrid working front. The KPMG 2023 CEO Outlook survey, which included 150 CEOs of some of the largest UK companies, found 63% predict a full return to in-office working by 2026 and 83% express a likelihood of linking financial reward and promotion opportunities to a return to in-office working practices.

This corresponds with a big push from some elements of the right-wing media who only seem to report the negatives of remote and hybrid working, something they rarely do about office working, despite lots of evidence existing on this front.

Like so many things these days, remote or hybrid working seems to have become part of the culture wars with increasing pressure for people to spend more and more days in the office. I caught one radio ‘debate’ which seemed to be angled on the idea that remote work is skiving. It feels sometimes like little progress has been made at all. The same goes for the 4-Day Week, which the same people also seem to have it in for, trying to make out that some aspects of the research on it is biased and hyping up the employers who pull out rather than the many who have found benefits in it. The 4-Day Week experiment is just that – allowing individual employers to adapt the model to their own needs because that is how it works best. Perhaps it doesn’t work for all type of work or for all departments. Perhaps individual employers have found it more challenging than others to make it work or have been more unable to adapt to it, meaning they end up compressing five days into four. The devil is in the detail. But what is to be lauded is the recognition of the need to innovate and the demand coming from the workforce as work becomes every more intensive and employees are juggling more and more demands on the home front due, in large part, to our crumbling infrastructure.

Yet the very people who are driving that collapse are those most resistant to change, any change it seems. They seem totally disconnected from what is happening all around them, which doesn’t fill one with a lot of confidence about their ability to run a company [or the country].

Another interesting piece of research came out last week. The Women in the Workplace Report 2023 from LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, claimed to be the largest study on the state of women in corporate America, found that women now seem more ambitious than before the pandemic and more likely to stay in senior roles, despite ongoing challenges. The report suggests a big part of the reason is due to greater workplace flexibility. This is something that comes through so many reports and indeed Dr Lucy Ryan’s new book, Revolting Women.  It finds that many seemingly successful women are on the edge and feel pushed out of the their organisations due to a lack of flexibility. Yet they are still very ambitious.

The problem is one of logistics. Back in the day I wanted to do a job swap with a CEO. I wanted them to see what it was like to work while juggling four children and understand why flexibility is vital. They still don’t seem to have got the message so forgive me if I roll my eyes when they come out with statements about diversity and gender equality. But on the positive side there are more employers than before the pandemic who do seem to understand. The divide between the two is likely to keep widening as the number of days in the office creeps up for some. There is some evidence emerging in the US of a fightback by employees. A survey by workplace consultant Gartner found evidence of growing tensions over return to work policies, with employers implementing return to work mandates experiencing higher resignation levels.  At a time of skills shortages, that’s something to watch.

*Updated on 13th October 2023.

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your Franchise Selection

Click the button below to register your interest with all the franchises in your selection

Request FREE Information Now

Your Franchise Selection

This franchise opportunity has been added to your franchise selection



Click the button below to register your interest with all the franchises in your selection

Request FREE Information Now

You may be interested in these similar franchises