No-one wants to analyse their market research just for “the bleedin’ obvious” to become the main finding.
So it is with a slight blush that I can share with you that the survey we undertook of more than 300 companies during the first phase of the pandemic returned a result which could, at a pinch, fit that disobliging description.
Flexible working was identified as something employers felt would benefit their staff the most, followed by guidance about pensions and an employee assistance programme or helpline.
Given that this year many of us who are able to have worked from home or remotely, it’s perhaps not surprising that this was at the forefront of the answers for this section.
But should we really view it as entirely predictable?
And what are the full implications of flexible working from businesses' and HR Directors' points of view?
What does flexible working REALLY mean?
I’ve given flexible working plenty of thought in the course of writing my first two books (with a third on the way in the new year) – on how business should be re-shaping around a shifting, ageing, dynamic workforce.
I have examined how conventional working patterns are being disrupted by the generational, demographic and technological changes taking place in the world.
I believe that employers need to embrace these upheavals - to adapt to the new, landscape which is emerging - and ensure their business has the right mix of people and skills to navigate what appears to be an unfamiliar route towards achieving their commercial objectives.
A flexible approach is a central part of this.
Most of us are set to be grafting for longer, as the office becomes an even more fluid concept (especially at the moment). Plus, the notion – and reality – of retiring has changed fundamentally. The traditional career structure is changing, ‘olderpreneurs’ are on the rise, and when employees reach the traditional retirement age, they might want (or need) to continue working – perhaps shifting to part-time, flexible hours, or working from home more permanently.
The fact is that this new world is a tectonic transformation, which means much, much more than not having to commute.
Flipping open the laptop at the kitchen table might well be one stage in a multi-faceted career that could span 50 or even 60 years. Achieving this requires imagination and resolve across the board: from employer, employee, family members and partners.
Twenty first century flexibility may encompass retraining in your forties, even fifties but that may mean funding it yourself.
This is where the Mid-Life Review comes in. Pension planning and funds for later life adventures or necessities should be something that you can bring into focus at this time. Not forgetting considering your options for that stage when you might not want to work.
Interestingly, population trends show that, while the working population age and potentially look to mould their own later career destiny, the number of younger people entering the job market is shrinking.
Will this be the moment employers have been told to anticipate? To forge a re-tooled approach to retain or repurpose the experience and know-how of their more established colleagues to ensure business continuity, creating a re-energised, vibrant workplace for everyone across the company spectrum?
The concept of a Midlife MOT is gaining traction as both a concept and a conscious method to enable employers to get their arms around the changes we face having to make.
And while our survey might make this seem as plain as the nose on your face to some, what it asks of us all to achieve is a far more nuanced question.
If the work we’ve carried out with companies is anything to go by, the steps we need to take are far from obvious. We all need to redraw the map to define what the future will mean for flexible working.