Flexible working is set to explode in 2024

After years of back-and-forth with workers, UK employers have definitively embraced remote and hybrid policies as their preferred way of working.

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

Forget rigid routines and commutes that eat into your mornings, a new wave of flexibility is set to wash over UK offices in 2024, as more employers embrace flexible working arrangements. 

Startups surveyed 546 business owners towards the end of 2023 about their current workplace model. Based on the results, 66% of respondents currently offer flexible working in some form, versus just 28% of firms that are based in the office full-time.

That figure is set to grow this year. Startups also asked businesses whether they would introduce alternative workplace models to the future workforce. The results show that the same percentage (66%) will embrace a flexible work model in 2024.

Remote work biggest winner amongst employers

14% of UK businesses surveyed are planning to increase the number of days that their staff can work remotely next year, making it the clear favourite over other flexible schedules.

In comparison, just 6% of companies surveyed said they planned to require staff to come into the office more days per week. This suggests that employers are waking up to the positive benefits that flexibility can bring to workplaces over rigid work schedules.

Workplace model being introduced in 2024% of respondents
Increasing number of days staff can work remotely14%
Introducing a four-day work week12%
Introducing flexi-time11%
Allowing staff to work from anywhere11%
Hiring for more part-time roles3%
Increasing staff number of days in the office6%
No changes planned44%

Other niche arrangements favoured by employers in 2024 include implementing a four-day week, flexi-time (where the employee can adjust their own start and finish times), and hiring for more part-time roles.

New to the flexible working scene is the employee benefit of ‘work from anywhere’. The perk means that staff are permitted to work in a different city, region, or even country, to where their employer is based.

That 11% of companies are planning to introduce this benefit next year is a signal that workplace borders are being considerably eased. UK employees can currently base themselves in over 40 countries to work remotely with a Digital Nomad visa.

Employees empowered to request flexible working this year

After years of campaigning post-COVID for employees to sit back at their desks, Startups’ findings provide a long-awaited verdict in the return to the office debate.

Businesses have finally accepted that workers will not easily relinquish work from home benefits. Once hesitant to embrace change, they are now actively planning for a 2024 reshaped around employee flexibility.

Many UK workers have thrown their support behind the fight for home working. A recent survey of 1,000 employees found that 94% of respondents agree it leads to improved staff morale and better work-life balance.

It can also save employees money – a crucial perk in light of the ongoing cost of living crisis. Ditching the daily commute translates to reduced transportation costs. Additionally, remote workers can avoid expenses like professional attire and lunches bought out.

These individual savings can contribute to a happier, more financially secure workforce, potentially boosting morale and productivity.

How going remote can help recruitment

Switching to flexible working could also give companies an advantage in the recruitment process, as data shows job hunters are increasingly favouring work from home over the office environment.

Analysis by Instant Offices finds the most in-demand jobs are overwhelmingly remote roles. 65% of the UK’s most sought-after jobs don’t require office attendance. Professions such as gamekeeper and PE teacher have seen the biggest rise in popularity in the last year.

Of course, not all jobs are suitable for remote work. Some roles require physical presence or collaboration that’s difficult to replicate virtually.

Still, Startups’ survey illustrates the range of options available for introducing flexible working beyond the best-known policies like hybrid or remote work. Firms that take these steps will be more attractive to top talent, giving them an edge in the recruitment game.

Job seekers will be handed another big win this year when the government’s Flexible Working Bill, also known as the Employee Relations Bill, will come into effect.

As a result of the law change, UK workers will be empowered to request a flexible work schedule from day one of employment. Employees will also be able to make two requests for flexible working hours, times, or location in a 12-month period.

Office downsizing in 2024

2% of the businesses that Startups surveyed reported that they were currently based in coworking spaces, while 18% are in fully remote work.

That one in five companies has officially moved out of the full-time office testifies to a growing trend amongst business owners. In the UK, many employers are either downsizing to a smaller workplace, or else turning the lights off permanently.

In a recent survey by real estate consultancy Lambert Smith Hampton, approximately 27% of small businesses said they were planning to downsize their office space this year.

This shift isn’t just about employee perks; it’s about cold, hard cash. Most of the respondents to the Lambert Smith Hampton survey said they were motivated by cost. In total, 78% expected to save money by relocating.

Average office rental costs in the UK are nearing £3,000 per month. With business rates set to increase in April 2024, and the rate of inflation showing no sign of ebbing, the decision to scale down is a savvy way to avoid paying extortionate monthly bills.

Beyond rent, offices come with a hefty list of utilities: electricity, water, heating, air conditioning, internet, and maintenance services. Reducing your physical footprint, or finding a serviced office provider, naturally translates to lowering these operational costs.

In fact, switching to a hybrid payment plan at a coworking space has been estimated to save SMEs around £20,000 per year in reduced overheads.

Already working flexibly? Read about 50+ employee benefits and perks you can introduce to improve staff morale and productivity in 2024.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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