‘Is the five-day work week dead?’ If you type this question into Google, you’ll be met with over 1 billion results.
Of course, this question isn’t new — I for one have been asking myself this for years — but with employees feeling increasingly empowered following the biggest remote working experiment in history, and employers having seen it’s possible for people to fulfill their duties outside of the workplace, I can’t say I’m surprised flexible working is making headlines again.
The good thing is that many employers are taking this seriously and actively consulting employees to devise hybrid, remote, or flexible working strategies, that work for their organization and their people.
In my role as Editor at UNLEASH, I’ve spoken to countless HR leaders – including NASA’s chief human capital officer Jane Datta — intent on making their workplaces more inclusive, flexible, and productive. For the most part, and despite some businesses holding on to the past, the narrative has truly shifted: employers have finally realized that the future of work is about humans.
I’ve worked remotely full-time for the past three years. It’s been lonely at times but it’s also given me the focus and space I needed to do my work — and if I needed anything, from anyone, at any time, I knew a colleague was only a Slack or a Teams message away.
I have also had the pleasure of enjoying unlimited paid time off for several years now — it proved incredibly useful in 2019 when my husband and I got married overseas and we needed to make several trips home to Spain without eating into our annual leave allowance every time.
Working from anywhere isn’t a new concept for me either. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve packed up my laptop and worked from my grandparents’ homes in Spain — without feeling distracted or like I was missing out by not being in the office.
It may have taken a global pandemic for this change to well and truly arrive but for other people but we’re now being led to believe it’s finally here. Indeed, experts say COVID-19 has supercharged the world of work by at least a decade, but will this change actually stick?
My biggest concern is that there’s a lot of hype around the future of work and that organizations will eventually go back to doing what they were doing before and that employees will simply go back to putting up with it — let’s face it, hybrid working comes with its own set of unique challenges.
You could, of course, argue that that’s no longer possible, that workers have tasted freedom and proved work can be done from anywhere but the reality is that the power dynamic has long been dominated by the employer — and I worry it may take more than a global pandemic to truly change this forever.
So, is the five-day work week dead, will HR actually manage to pull off flexible working, or will we go back to how things were before? You tell me!