The changing nature of the UK's workforce

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Organisations and their workforces changed overnight during 2020. Flexible working, the cloud and working remotely has become normal for all of us. But what does a resilient workforce actually look like? What are the component parts that allow the employer and employee flexibility, results and performance?

If you looked at a law firm (or any other business for that matter) at the beginning of 2020 ago, you would have found people sat at their desks in big office spaces and surrounded by paper files. We lawyers do love paper and offices…

Fast forward to 2021 and we are (in the main) all working at home, storing our documents and papers electronically and embracing the concepts of flexible working, including through the use of lawyers operating as contractors. The profession even made the headlines in the Financial Times as we give up all or part of trophy office spaces as the demand for office space changes. Who would have thought it of a profession which is traditionally seen as a slower adopter of change…

It is not just the pandemic which has led to this change, but recent events have certainly made companies “seal the deal” and demonstrate that we can make changes to the way we work without the sky falling in or productivity slipping. Of course, it's not just law firms who are looking at how they operate and build a resilient workforce – these changes apply across all sectors as technological developments and social change drive new working patterns and requirements.

A resilient workforce?

But what do we mean by a resilient workforce? The obvious change in the last 12 months is the ability for people to work from home. We are unlikely to switch back to five days a week in the office, but it goes further than that:

  • flexible working: embracing new working patterns outside the traditional 9-5
  • flexible labour forces to meet supply demand: how are you managing the peaks and troughs of their requirements?
  • flexible employment and services models: it’s more than simply about employment status

Get it wrong and you can make the headlines - you only have to think of the noise over zero hours contracts and the manner in which some (predominantly lower paid) workers were, and continue to be, treated. Society is less forgiving of such misdemeanors and there is a continuing move towards more ethical purchasing decisions.

But if you get it right, you have a talented and engaged workforce which flexes to meet the changing demands of your business. Flexibility allows you to engage people who may not otherwise have been part of your business and means you gain a reputation as being a forward thinking place, a great place to work. Great for you, your workers and your business reputation!

We would love to hear from you as to how you manage your workforce challenges: Agency workers vs employees vs contractors? Home working and flexible working? Recruitment? If you have a particular issue you think would benefit from a legal comment or two and which would have wider application to industry, do let us know.

The changing face for the workforce

Ruth Andrew and Andrew Secker discuss the need for an agile workforce and what employers need to know about the changing nature of employees

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Recorded in November 2020, Rebecca Cockerill and Will Sambrook (Akenham) look at resilience in the workforce.
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