A new report shows that the pandemic’s biggest impact on the workplace wasn’t productivity — it was the number of hours worked.
According to analysis from the International Labor Organization (ILO), as businesses closed and people spent more time working from the confines of their home, the workplace was forced to find a new way to operate.
For some, this was a temporary solution to a temporary problem. For others, the pandemic introduced a sustainable concept that has become unshakeable: flexible working.
“Without the willingness of employees to work both time-flexibly and location-flexibly during the pandemic and especially during the times of lockdown, the negative effects on the economy would probably have been even greater,” the report read. “Flexibility was and is necessary in times of crisis.”
While flexible working had the foundation of being the perfect solution to workplace woes, some professionals found themselves struggling with finding a proper work-life balance.
With this, time has shown that flexibility is not a one-size-fits-all solution for workplace problems. Last year marked record-high cases of burnout and depleted worker mental health, leading to dips in productivity and engagement levels.
According to Jon Messenger, the lead author of the report, leaders must “look at the way working hours are structured, as well as their overall length…” By doing so, he believes that both employees and organizations can reap the benefits of flexibility.
This should include prioritizing mental and physical health benefits, encouraging employees to create boundaries between their personal and work lives. Second, leaders must also seek feedback from workers about their preferences, as their most productive workday could look different than someone else’s.