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From crisis to opportunity: our free Covid-19 support programme

13 million people intend to ask for permanent flexible working once the current crisis has passed. Our free Covid-19 support programme will help employers use what they’ve learned to develop long-term solutions that work for all.

There’s no question that Covid-19 has ripped up the rulebook on what normal work looks like. Whole organisations and sectors, including those that have previously been considered ‘un-flexable’, are now discovering what’s possible.

And while remote working is just one aspect of flexible working, what we’re seeing is a huge mindset change. 13 million people plan to ask for permanent flexible working arrangements once lockdown is lifted. Twitter have announced that their staff can work from home ‘forever’ if they wish. 40% of medium to large employers have suggested they will permanently increase remote working options.

A once in a lifetime opportunity to transform the way we work

It is becoming clear that forward looking organisations, who want to be seen as employers of choice, can’t afford not to develop their flexible working offer. But there’s a big difference between offering remote working at speed, and delivering sustainable flexible working.

Most organisations are still in the first phase, managing the remote working experiment as best they can. But it’s now time for leaders to start thinking about the second phase, to use what they have learned to develop truly flexible workplaces. And we are here to help bridge that gap.

From crisis to opportunity: our free Covid-19 support programme

At Timewise, developing sustainable flexible working solutions is what we do. We do it for organisations and sectors of all shapes and sizes, and we do it exceptionally well. So as Covid-19 took hold, we rolled up our sleeves and worked out a plan to help employers and their staff turn this crisis into an opportunity.

The result is From crisis to opportunity: redesigning the workplace, a free Covid-19 support programme for organisations and their staff. The programme includes a series of webinars for key organisations and sectors, and practical support for groups such as line managers, with more to come. You can find out more about the programme on our bespoke Covid-19 support page.

An important part of the programme, which is supported by Barclays LifeSkillls and Trust for London, will be capturing the learnings from this time and sharing them for the benefit of all. And that sits at the heart of how we work.

Why this matters – now more than ever

As a social business, all our work is underpinned by our central mission: to create fairer workplaces in which individuals can get the flexibility they need without compromising their value in the jobs market. We believe that getting this much-discussed ‘new normal’ right is will only happen if flex and fairness are built in. Here’s what we, as a society, need to do if we’re to make this happen:

  • We need to take an inclusive approach

If we don’t act carefully, some key groups, such as those who are juggling work and care, will miss out. Research from the IFS has shown that working mothers are bearing the brunt of the caring and homeschooling responsibilities, and the gap between mothers’ and fathers’ work patterns has grown since the crisis began. There’s a real risk that more working mothers may drop out of the workplace unless properly designed flexible roles (and not just juggling from home) are offered to all.

  • We need to avoid a two-tier workplace

The Covid-19 crisis has rightly seen a growing appreciation of frontline workers, from NHS staff to retail employees. It’s important as we go forward with flex to remember that not everyone works in an office, and those who don’t are just as entitled to, and in need of, flexible working.

At Timewise, we specialise in tackling sectors which are hard to make flexible, with recent projects focusing on construction, nursing and teaching. This kind of work needs to continue more widely, to ensure that those who have protected us during Covid-19 are protected in return with fair working practices.

  • We need leaders to stand up and be counted

There have been some great examples of human leadership during the crisis, such as CEOs talking to staff about how lockdown has affected their mental health, leaders showing by example that it’s OK if your kids come on the Zoom call and managers empowering their teams to work at times that suit them. This open, positive attitude needs to continue, with bosses creating and delivering cultures in which flexible working is properly implemented, supported and celebrated.

  • We need to design jobs with flexibility built in

Dishing out a laptop and a Zoom account is a short-term fix, not a long-term strategy. Designing truly flexible roles involves looking at where, when and how much work needs to be done, and it isn’t something you just know; line managers need to be taught how to do it. Our Covid-19 support programme includes a free introductory line manager’s toolkit; we also offer more bespoke training as part of our consultancy package.

  • We need to build a flexible hiring market to support the recovery

Finally, creating flexible jobs isn’t enough. We also need to make sure they are advertised as such when companies start rehiring post-crisis, particularly as many of the people who have lost their jobs will need flexibility in any role they return to. It’s not just good for employees either; a recent study showed that employers who advertised their jobs as flexible saw a 30% uplift in applications.

We’ll be tracking the jobs market through our annual Flexible Jobs Index, with a particular focus on the post-Covid-19 landscape and the impact of this global remote working experiment.

If we come together and make all this happen, we really will have turned the crisis into an opportunity; for fairer workplaces, for more equal teams and households, for better mental and physical health. It’s going to take a lot of work – and will need industry and government support and funding – but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that’s here for the taking.

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