The COVID-19 crisis has redefined the way we work. It has accelerated the existing trend towards flexible work and turned many opponents of virtual work into supporters. This crisis has also shown that even roles previously considered as unsuited for flexible work can be adapted and shaped in unprecedented ways.
The trend towards workforce flexibility is not new. Prior to the pandemic, pressures of digitisation and globalisation stimulated companies around the globe to develop strategies to build a flexible workforce. For example, early 2020, the Finnish Parliament passed the Working Hours Act, which facilitated flexible working-time arrangements and improved employee opportunities to combine their work and personal life. Specifically, the act specifies that the employer defines the work tasks, aims, and overall schedule, but the employee can then select time and location. This has forced organisations in Finland to rethink work and fundamentally changed jobs that were once thought impossible to make flexible.
The required flexibility brought on by the pandemic has accelerated these efforts and shown that investing in workforce flexibility is not a luxury. Rather, it is a key strategic priority that can yield some important benefits. In addition to improving employee engagement, flexibility can improve productivity and profitability. Moreover, organisations that offer greater flexibility can tap into a broader talent pool of workers that were previously harder to reach (including caregivers, disabled, etc), which fosters diversity and inclusion.
Obviously, workforce flexibility is about much more than telework. It also goes far beyond allowing or mandating flexibility in times of a pandemic. Flexibility also includes employee choice in terms of when and how work is done, in addition to where it is done from. It can even be about the type of contract that you offer to people.
In the white paper ‘Flexing your workforce’, the Centre for Excellence in Leading Adaptive Organisations takes a closer look at four ways in which organisations can flex their workforce:
1. Agile Talent Management
2. Internal Talent Markets
3. Talent Ecosystems
4. Gig Work