Flexible working causing divide between leaders and employees

The gap between employer and employee could widen post-pandemic as flexible working divides opinion in the workplace. 

A new survey has found that 75% of executive leaders think they are already operating within a culture of flexibility, yet only 57% of employees said their organisational culture embraces flexible work.

Just 41% of employees agreed that senior leadership acts in their best interest.  Furthering the divide, 76% of leaders think they have equipped staff with the resources to work virtually yet only 59% of employees said they had made the necessary investments.

Should this be left unaddressed, this division may lead to a critical failure to build trust and employee buy-in for future of work plans. Leaders must acknowledge that there is a gap. Designing flexible work requires leaders to adopt a human-centric lens, and this means that leaders must look at the realities of flexibility from multiple points of view. Especially those whose experience is fundamentally different from theirs.

By communicating their awareness of the differences between how flexibility is experienced, leaders will already make some progress in bridging the gap and making employees feel heard.

If this flexible working gap is not addressed, businesses risk losing top talent. Employees increasingly feel that flexible work is a right, not a privilege, and leaders who feel differently risk alienating their workforce and damaging trust in leadership.  

Trust is an important component of employee engagement, which is already being tested in a volatile and disruptive work environment.  Employees who feel their expectations will not be met may see this as yet another reason to leave their organisation and join the great resignation wave.

Survey findings have suggested that a full return to the office risk losing 39% of their workforce.  Employees must be given the chance to make their voice heard in decisions that fundamentally affect their lives, both personal and professional.   By employing strategies like pulse surveys or focus groups, organisations will have a stronger understanding of where there is dissonance between populations on the future work model and work to close the gap.

Currently, only 47% of employees said they believe leaders and decision makers take their perspective into consideration. In comparison, 75% of leaders said leadership teams consider employee perspective when making decisions.

Leaders must be as explicit as possible about the decision-making process.  Inconsistently receiving messages create confusion. It is better for leaders to state clearly what they do and do not know to ensure populations are not consuming different messages.  An employee has the right to submit a flexible working request once in a twelve month period providing they meet the criteria set, should you require any assistant with such an event please contact 121 HR Solutions.

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