Scotland risks further skills shortages unless frontline workers offered more flexibility - report

Scottish employers are being urged to create more flexibility for frontline workers such as nurses, carers and delivery drivers, or risk further skills shortages.

A new study reveals that while flexible working has increased because of the pandemic, office workers have benefited the most thanks to a range of remote and hybrid working options.

Meanwhile, people working in many frontline roles have often missed out on any flexible working, which includes more control over hours and how much work is undertaken, as well as location.

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The new report, by Flexibility Works, acknowledges that flexible working is more challenging in some sectors, but also highlights how employer and worker expectations around flexible working are often very different, and that employers need to take notice.

Nearly six in ten (58 per cent) of Scottish employers who could not offer some form of flexible working to all staff during the pandemic said this was simply because people worked in frontline and public facing roles and suggests they felt there was nothing more they could do.

But demand for flexible working among frontline workers is high, the research notes, especially for the 35 per cent considering changing jobs right now.

Nearly half (45 per cent) of frontline workers without flexible working think their job could be done at different times to normal, and nearly a third think some parts of their job could be done at another location.

Lisa Gallagher, co-founder and director at Flexibility Works, a social business which is funded and supported by the Scottish Government and the Social Innovation Partnership, said: “We know it’s harder to create flexibility in frontline roles. But the fact someone can’t work from home shouldn’t mean they’re written off when it comes to new ways of working.

Flexibility Works cited steel fabricator Ritchie, which has plants at Forfar in Angus, and near Birmingham, as one firm adapting to change with its workforce. Picture: Nick Callaghan

“We’re urging employers to get more creative, or they’re going to lose great workers and struggle to recruit new ones.

“Frontline workers want work-life harmony just as much as office workers, and many feel their current role could be more flexible.

“There are lots of relatively small things employers can also do to increase work-life harmony for frontline workers, such as allowing direct input to shift rotas, making it easier to change shifts, offering good quality part-time roles and allowing people to use leave in different ways to cover short appointments and events. It’s not all about wholesale moves to home working and flexitime.”

Flexibility Works cited steel fabricator Ritchie, which has plants at Forfar in Angus, and near Birmingham, as one firm adapting to change as it moves manufacturing staff to a compressed four-day working week in August.

Meanwhile, a new report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) notes that more than half of Scots (54 per cent) are now working in home and hybrid roles.

Lee Ann Panglea, head of the CIPD in Scotland and Northern Ireland, said: “We are at the heart of the transition to a post-pandemic workplace, with new ways of working now becoming embedded in our working lives. People professionals in Scotland are well placed to drive the necessary change that will improve Scottish working lives and boost wellbeing, as well as productivity.”

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