With global events affecting our work lives more than ever, could the UK be edging closer to a 24/7 working lifestyle?
A world where the flexibility and freedom to choose when and how we work are the driving forces behind the change.
We surveyed UK workers to find out what they think.
worked from home
are now working from home
during the covid-19 pandemic
According to official ONS data, 1.7 million workers in the UK worked from home before Covid-19.
With lockdown measures placed on the population, this has risen 10 fold to 50%.
With flexibility being a key component of at-home or remote working*, we asked the UK how they feel about the idea of “always on” full-time flexibility becoming the new normal way of working.
*including public spaces, coworking spaces and virtual offices.
What could flexible working look like in the future?
When we asked the UK - given the flexibility to choose, which alternative days you would have off rather than the standard Saturday and Sunday - the results showed, surprisingly, that they would opt for splitting their two days off instead of having two days off in a row.
Mondays and Fridays being the nation’s clear favourites.
|IT & Telecoms||38%||24%||23%||38%||47%|
Three industry sectors did buck the national trend however: workers in IT & telecoms and legal professions said they’d opt for Thursdays and Fridays off, while HR workers favoured a Thursday/Friday or Friday/Monday combo equally.
The early bird catches the worm is certainly a phrase that’s fitting for the UK workforce, with 60% saying the morning is their preferred time of day to work.
Nearly a quarter of the UK said they’d prefer to work in the afternoon if given the choice.
Not so popular for the UK workforce is the option of working in the evenings, with only 7% selecting this as a preferred option.
*9% of the UK workforce had no preference toward the time of day they work
Early morning workers would most likely be found in the South East of England (71%). Here, the number of people who’d opt for an early start is much higher than the average.
Workers in Northern Ireland, however, would be more inclined to burn the midnight oil than the rest of the UK, with 14% saying they’d prefer to work in the evenings.
Industry-wise, two went against the grain. Given the option, those in arts and culture (43%) and legal professions (46%) would choose to work in the afternoons.
|Flexibility makes me more productive||34%|
|Help mental health||22%|
|Less crowding on services||17%|
|Take less productive days off||14%|
|Less busy at work||10%|
Being able to fit a role around their lifestyle is the top priority for the UK workforce, whether that’s having the option to run an extra side hustle or head to the gym when it's less crowded, for example.
Interestingly, people said the flexibility to choose their working hours makes them more productive because they can specify the times of the day and week that best fit with their concentration levels and workload.
This is something that employers will need to pay close attention to as it’s a win for both businesses and employees.
Helping mental health came in third on the list of reasons why UK workers would choose flexible working options.
Being able to create a pattern of working that doesn’t impact coping mechanisms and limits the additional stress factors of a rigid working day, such as childcare demands or a stressful commute, can be a lifeline for people dealing with mental health.
Surprisingly, slightly more men selected childcare responsibilities than women as the reason for requesting flexible days and hours from their employer.
While evidence suggests the division of childcare responsibilities is still unequal among the sexes, it could be that life in lockdown has shed more light on the issue, and the need for employers to support parents with childcare demands through a more flexible working structure.
Across the spectrum, those surveyed overwhelmingly said they would show greater loyalty to their employers in return for flexibility of working hours and location.
The 25 - 44 age group leads the way on this opinion. This demographic is most likely at key family building stages of their lives and would most value the flexibility.
How a business is perceived to the outside world has never been more important than it is now.
The UK workforce’s younger demographic (16 - 34) said they would be more likely to purchase products or services from a brand or business they knew offered flexible working to its employees.
Workers in HR, sales, media and marketing were the most passionate about spending with brands that offered flexibility to their workers.
more likely to buy from a brand that offers flexible working to staff
Across the board, UK workers say they would select a job with greater flexibility over a slightly higher paid one.
The flipside of this is: in order for UK workers to be lured into a job at the expense of flexibility, the increase in salary would have to be substantial to justify the move.
The only industry to buck this trend was the legal industry, where opinion was split. Workers said they’d be just as likely to opt for a job with more money as they would one with greater flexibility (46% each).
With half the country now working under flexible conditions of some kind, will we, as a nation, be able to go back to the 9 to 5?
If flexible working proves to drastically improve work-life balance, productivity levels, support for mental health and much more, the 7-day work week - with the freedom to choose how and when we work - might just become “the new normal” in the not-too-distant future.