Dr Heejung Chung, an expert in flexible working and work-life balance at the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR), has reflected on the changes we have seen in workplace culture in 2020 with the Covid-19 pandemic causing many businesses to adapt to new ways of working.
Dr Chung’s five takeaway points are:
- Flexible working works
Unlike what was thought in previous times, we found out that many jobs we once thought were impossible to be done at home, can actually be done from home quite well – if not better than from the office. Companies are already getting rid of office spaces, or re-thinking office spaces to make them fit for purpose in this new era of work. Offices will not disappear but they are likely to look very different to what they were before.
- People love flexible working
What is more, an increasing number of people now want to work from home and have other types of flexible working in the future. The right to request has been here since 2003, but this pandemic has really made a shift in gears in the demands for flexible working among all workers, and the flexible working genie is unlikely to go back to its bottle.
- Meaningful work
The rise of key worker status has made us rethink how we value ‘work’. Some jobs we considered as low-skilled jobs, such as supermarket cashiers, delivery drivers, and those working in the social care and health care sectors were the heroes of our society – especially during the first wave of the pandemic. Possibly we can rethink the way society provides financial renumeration for these roles now that we know that the very fabric of our societies, and our lives depend on these roles.
- The UK can have a proper unemployment benefit scheme
The UK has in a way successfully introduced an unemployment benefit scheme out of the blue, to save our society and the economy – through the furlough scheme. Will this be the moment when we start introducing a new insurance-based system into UK’s welfare state?
- People want to work less
The re-evaluation of work and how we spend our time has also shaped the way we think about our own work/working hours. We see that many people have enjoyed spending more time with their children and partners over the pandemic period and are starting to re-evaluate their priorities – many wanting to work less going into the future. With this – we are increasingly seeing support rise for a 4 day week. Could this be the moment we have been waiting for to follow John Mayer Keynes’ prediction of 15 hour work weeks?
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