Support in the Flexible Workplace
What is a ‘workplace’? You may be pondering this as your employer, or your business, considers how it will return to normality after the coronavirus pandemic.
But this is an even more important question for us at ENABLE Works, as we help people find employment, or gain the skills they need to do so. For if we’re to properly prepare people for the workplace, we need to understand what the workplace of the future will look like.
Things used to be simple. Most people went to work in an office, a shop or on-site, generally between 9 and 5, Monday to Friday. The pandemic has, however, thrown everything up in the air.
Office for National Statistics data shows that in April 2020 around half of people in employment worked at home: 86% were doing so as a result of the pandemic. As the pandemic continued, those working from home evolved from working the ‘9 to 5’ to having a ‘10:30 to whenever’ working day. They were moving to the more flexible working patterns of those who had historically worked from home.
Hours worked by homeworkers 2015-20
Why is this important? It’s because it shows that – at least temporarily – barriers that have stood in the way of many people working have been erased. ‘No homeworking’ policies have been shelved, long commutes removed, and the inaccessibility of offices made irrelevant, all of which particularly benefit disabled people, who have always been central to the work of the ENABLE Group.
There’s a more subtle change as well though, as demonstrated by the change in the hours at which people are choosing to work. Has work finally started to fit around people, rather than people being required to fit around work?
If it has, ENABLE Work’s role in preparing people for the workplace could involve preparing them to work effectively from home, as much as preparing them to fit into office life or the shop floor. It could involve identifying roles that are no longer bound by office hours, suiting those whose circadian rhythms don’t suit the 9 to 5 perhaps. Or it could involve revisiting the opportunities available to those whose hours of work need to flex with their caring responsibilities.
Of course, this new – and well overdue – flexibility could disappear if we allow ourselves to drift back into the old ways of working. That’s why we all need to advocate for a more flexible vision of workplace and, in turn prevent, one of the few positives to come out of this pandemic from slipping away.