Hybrid And Beyond: Is “Flexible Working” Helping Britain’s SMEs To Deal With Wage Pressures?

Elise Lockyer of Sonovate says that the workplace is changing.

It’s a simple and completely logical concept. In reality, the United Kingdom is facing a deficit in the labour market. Even against a backdrop of static or negative growth, there are around one million unfilled vacancies in the economy, and with demand outstripping supply, wages are on the rise. Smaller businesses aren’t keen to enter into an escalating bidding war with their larger and more resource-rich competitors and are therefore looking for alternatives and ways to attract and keep employees.

Giving something worthwhile that does not necessarily result in higher staffing costs is one way to accomplish this.What exactly is it?

Hybrid And Beyond: Is “Flexible Working” Helping Britain’s SMEs To Deal With Wage Pressures?
Hybrid And Beyond: Is “Flexible Working” Helping Britain’s SMEs To Deal With Wage Pressures?

One possibility is an increase in the amount of work.

flexibility. That, according to a study titled “The Future World of Work,” is exactly what a large number of SMEs are doing.What does flexibility mean in the real world? Does it make any difference in the capacity of small businesses to recruit the staff they require?

The study was conducted by Sonovate, a firm that offers a solution using technology for consultants and recruitment agencies that connect contingent workers to clients. In essence, the company provides invoice financing. If a recruiter places several freelancers through a third-party firm, Sonovate will take care of the freelancer’s salary once an invoice is issued. This is beneficial to the recruitment agency’s cash flow, and it also means that freelancers will be paid faster.

As chief people officer Elise Lockyer explains, the company conducted its own survey, collecting responses from 500 SMEs and 4,000 employees to find out what direction the workplace is headed.

What has the study discovered? Some of the results are not that unexpected. 49% of the businesses that responded claim they have to think more creatively regarding how they find and retain employees. Nearly three-quarters (70 percent) are in an environment where applicants will only accept jobs when they are able to meet the requirements.

The amount of money you earn plays a significant role in determining if an opportunity is thought to be appropriate by the candidate. 43 percent of employers have increased the wages of their employees. Some say wage hikes aren’t affordable for the long  term, which is why they are looking to bring employees to the table by looking at their working methods.

This is where things become complicated.It’s not surprising that over half of employers offer hybrid work, which coincides with the post-covid understanding on the employee’s part that being able to work from home for a set amount of time per week is a great opportunity. The majority of employers that offer this kind of arrangement are those that provide internet subsidies.

A Transition to Temporary

Good and all However, according to statistics, the number of permanent employees who want a change in their roles is rising.

I suggested to Elise Lockyer that this seems to be a bit odd. In a time where employees are facing higher rates of interest (including mortgages), rising rents, and steep increases in the overall price of living, why would anyone want to change their permanent jobs for something that is more uncertain?

“What we’ve seen is that you need to manage your employees as individuals,” she says. “Some individuals look around and realise that employers are dumping their employees. They might feel that the flexibility of working gives them more control over their personal future.

A better strategy than being in a permanent contract with one employer is to use the portfolio model.It is possible to work as a freelancer for two or more companies in a month or a week.”They are paid, but they don’t have to commit full-time to a company.” “With portfolio and gig work, there’s the possibility of working with multiple companies,” says Lockyer.

What do workers really want?

It’s simple to see the benefits for certain employers. For example, Lockyer says Sonovate has recently hired a person to perform certain tasks two days a week. The work is completed, and the company doesn’t have to cover the time it doesn’t use.

Is this the goal of workers? They may have motives. If someone is looking to start their own business, then working for a business owner for two days per week and spending the remainder of their time setting up the venture might make sense. Working sequentially or simultaneously may provide financial benefits while also providing an opportunity to add experiences to resumes if a worker is extremely well-paid and has an impressive set of in-demand skills, such as multiple employers.It is possible that having multiple employers may also provide greater protection than putting all your eggs in one basket. It could be that someone would like to work just a few days per week.

The study does indicate that there is a need for a variety of work options, but only for those who are already working as freelancers. For example, 30 percent of freelancers want to set their own time as well as the number of hours and days they are working on. Three-in-ten (27 percent) wish to work part-time, should they choose to, while 25% want to work from home whenever they wish to.

However, it will all depend on the individual and the conditions. Workers who are paid less and are on contracts for short periods of time may feel abused rather than enjoy the advantages of flexible working.

Smaller businesses, however, that have a strong culture are likely to struggle with motivating teams of employees who have very diverse contracts and work hours. Lockyer believes this is something businesses must take seriously. “You need to be aware of your beliefs and values and incorporate them into the company regardless of whether employees are working full-time or part-time,” she says.

Lockyer believes that the working world will continue to evolve. This is probably true, but it’s also likely that more workers want greater flexibility. The issue is whether the flexible options are able to benefit both the business and the employees.

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Samatha Vale
Samatha a senior writer for HC's entertainment team. She is an entreprenuer, mother and an excellent writer. She's also an avid reader, music enthusiast and all around inquisitive person - which is just a nice way of saying she's nosy.

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