Not retiring: the when and where of work

When you work may matter just as much to many people as where you work.

Older woman works at home on laptop


There has been a lot of talk about flexible working of late, particularly when it comes to where we work. That is one of the factors behind the drive to get people with disabilities or health problems back to work.

Being able to work from home is regarded as making it easier for many to get back to work. But flexible working is not just about where you work and, of course, many jobs can’t be done remotely and not that many are advertised as being fully remote. Even hybrid working is having a backlash after Covid with people being pulled into the office for more and more days as senior managers decide that remote working stifles creativity and that offices are the only place for ideas and inspiration. Maybe for some people, but certainly not for all.

Others, like flexible working guru Andy Lake, author of Beyond Hybrid Working, prefer to take a task-based approach to work rather than a hardline pro or anti office stance. From the point of view of productivity and effective working, it makes sense to look at where certain people perform certain tasks best and to give them some sense of autonomy over that.

When to work

That’s all very well for the question of where to work. But it ignores the issue of when. For some it is not just an issue of where they work that is a barrier to work. It matters when they work. That includes parents who may be struggling to afford childcare and may need hours that fit around school timetables. It also includes people with illnesses or disabilities who may find it easier to have more control over when they work best. I’ve spoken to several people with acute arthritis who want to work, but say if their arthritis flares up they feel extremely fatigued and in pain. They want the flexibility to be able to take a break when they need to and to work later or earlier to catch up.

How do you manage such different schedules? It’s not that hard really if you are judging performance on specific tasks getting done. It may not work in jobs that absolutely require hourly or daily deadlines, but there are many to which that doesn’t need to apply. The need for jobs that are flexible on the when as well as the where is huge and until those jobs are more widely available many people will find themselves excluded from or driven out of the workforce.

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