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Published date: 2020/10

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The traditional eight-hour workday first rose to prominence back in the early nineteenth century as a response to poor factory working conditions during the Industrial Revolution. Despite changes in time and technology, the modern workforce still operated to this rigid schedule in one form or another. Until COVID-19, that is. 

Lockdown forced millions of people into remote working overnight, accelerating changes towards flexible practices that have been slowly introduced over the past decade. While working from home was perhaps once considered an occasional treat for employees and an inconvenience for employers, a survey conducted by LinkedIn and Marie Claire found that three in five bosses and workers now view the Monday to Friday 9-5 model as finished. It also revealed that 59 per cent would like to work from home some or all of the time, with 25 per cent preferring two days a week at home, and over a quarter opting for three days working in their own space.

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, the author of Shorter and Rest, two books that reinforce the importance of working less, more productively, believes that the lockdown will impact how companies operate in the future. Speaking to Penguin, Pang said: “For organisations that were previously sceptical of flexible work and working from home, I think it’s going to be difficult for them to maintain their strict policies...I do think that, in the long-run, this period will spark an increase in demand for flexible work.”

For a long time, Pang has been a champion of the four-day workweek as a powerful tool to boost productivity and employee energy levels. Long before the pandemic, PRS adopted a four-day work-week to ensure our people could achieve a better work-life balance and come to work feeling refreshed and ready to go. It’s been a huge success and went a long way in ensuring we could quickly and easily adapt to a remote work model at the start of lockdown back in March.

Employers are shifting from measuring productivity by hours and instead focusing on outcomes. As such, regimented 9-5 shifts carried out Monday to Friday are becoming less relevant. Over the last nine months, we’ve spoken to leaders who say the pandemic has made them rethink their policies on flexible working. While it’s unlikely we’ll see set working hours ditched completely; we expect a hybrid approach will be a popular option, combining both office and remote working practices. This is reinforced by a 2020 Salesforce survey of 3,500 workers which found that 74 per cent of Gen-Z preferred to split their time between home and work, and 64 per cent stating they would like to spend ‘some time’ working from an office or location outside of their homes.  

Whatever the future looks like, it’s highly unlikely we will return to our old lives. Instead, we’ll see outdated and imbalanced working structures finally rectified for the benefit of businesses and their employees, which can only be a good thing. 

PRS Great Expectations 2021

As we look towards 2021, our free Great Expectations eBook examines some of the questions candidates will be asking employers about how they handled the pandemic as well as their expectations for the future. Download your copy today.