Navigating the Impact of the ‘Flexi-fallout’ on Employee Wellbeing

Remote and flexible working arrangements have become the new norm, and in 2023, at least 44 percent of employed adults worked this way.

But as businesses begin to transition back to onsite working, employees are growing concerned that they will lose the flexibility they’ve grown accustomed to.

This anxiety will likely cause an increase in flexible working requests under the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023.

To address these concerns and support employee wellbeing during this transition, employers must take proactive steps to assess and mitigate the potential negative impacts of the ‘flexi-fallout.’

Consider the impact of the ‘flexi-fallout’ on employees

While mandating a return to onsite working may seem like a straightforward solution to increase productivity, it’s essential to consider the broader implications for employee wellbeing.

For the majority of employees, the flexibility afforded by remote or hybrid work arrangements is pivotal for maintaining a work-life balance, and removing these options could result in increased stress, work dissatisfaction, and ultimately, burnout.

Research has shown that hybrid work models can enhance productivity and job satisfaction, with 65 percent of hybrid workers reporting increased productivity and 59 percent experiencing improved job satisfaction.

Before implementing any changes, employers must carefully evaluate how transitioning back to on-site working will affect their employees’ emotional well-being and productivity and whether the change is warranted.

It is crucial to engage in open dialogue with employees to understand their perspectives on flexible working. By soliciting feedback and addressing concerns, employers can ensure that any decisions regarding workplace policies are informed and considerate of employee needs.

Model benefits during the transition

Workplace culture plays a major role in employee wellbeing and happiness, and maintaining a healthy outlook will help to facilitate a smooth transition back to onsite working and prevent a flexi-fallout.

Employers should lead by example by encouraging employees to embrace the change in working policy and help them feel more motivated and supported about returning to the workplace.

Taking a punitive approach to enforcing onsite attendance can backfire and lead to increased worker dissatisfaction and potentially higher employee turnover.

Instead, employers should emphasise the benefits of returning to in-person working, such as increased social interaction, collaboration, and creativity.

Office environments offer opportunities for spontaneous interactions and idea-sharing that can enhance problem-solving and alleviate feelings of isolation experienced by remote workers.

Emphasising the value of these face-to-face interactions can help employees feel more connected and engaged with their work and colleagues.

Establish a supportive workplace culture

Creating a healthy and inclusive culture at work is vital for prioritising employee wellbeing and maintaining employee motivation and efficiency.

Employers have a responsibility to cultivate a good working environment and must establish open lines of communication and stress the importance of a healthy work-life balance.

A recent survey found that one in three workers have quit a job due to poor management and toxic work culture, but organisations that establish a respectful, transparent, and trustful environment are more likely to make their employees feel valued and empowered.

Encourage workers to raise concerns they may have and remind them about setting boundaries and taking regular breaks to protect their well-being while enhancing job satisfaction and reducing the risk of burnout.

Support employees with the right resources

Transitioning back to onsite working from flexible working can be a struggle for some employees, but making resources and support services available can ease this process.

Mental health support services like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions can equip workers with tools to manage stress and anxiety and address other mental health concerns that can create further workplace challenges.

Counselling services like Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can help employees deal with personal or work-related challenges to mitigate stress and improve emotional and mental well-being.

Improved employee well-being can reduce absenteeism and enhance productivity to the benefit of both workers and employers.

All teams should also complete emotional literacy training which can help colleagues empathise with each other as they undertake workplace changes, and this will also help with coping with complicated interpersonal dynamics to foster healthy communication and resilience.

By prioritising employee wellbeing and fostering a supportive and resilient workplace culture, employers can ensure a smooth transition back to onsite working while maintaining high levels of morale, productivity, and job satisfaction to successfully avoid a ‘flexi fallout.’

By Gosia Bowling, National Lead for Mental Wellbeing at Nuffield Health.

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