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It feels cliche to open any article with “the world of work has changed since the global pandemic” but it’s true. The world of work has changed since the global pandemic. Since March 2020 many salaried and tech workers have been forced to work from their own home, whilst performing caring responsibilities, juggling the burn out and the threat of their companies going under, and generally adapting to a “new normal”.

Many big companies have announced they’re closing their permanent offices forever, work has become home and home has become work. Personally, I’m writing this from a WeWork (a perk that my employer offers) because it turns out being alone in my apartment all day every day isn’t great for my mental health. And considering how busy this WeWork is, I imagine a lot of people feel the same.

But more than the implications of where we work, there is also a big upheaval of how we work. With chatter rising about the idea of a four-day workweek, more companies offering flexible working, and rumours of the Great Resignation, companies are finding its no longer enough to just offer competitive salary.

Compensation should be thought about as a whole, and not just its parts. Compensation includes salary, benefits such as healthcare, office location and perks, time and hours worked, and support your company will offer. More so, compensation should allow for flexibility.

The benefits of a four-day workweek apply to all sorts of flexible schedules, and help make your company more inclusive. For example, being able to work shorter days is useful to those with caring responsibilities, and offering the option to work from home allows people with chronic illnesses to thrive at work. Allowing your company to work fully remotely too helps widen the candidate pool to those who cannot afford to live in metropolitan areas, and helps level the playing field when it comes to things like generational wealth.

But even without the inclusivity aspect, flexible working is good because employees like flexibility. Nobody does their best work reliably from 9-6, in a cubicle, after a two hour commute, with no downtown. Some days your brain doesn’t work as well and you stop being productive at 4pm. Sometimes your baby kept you up all night and logging on at 10am means you can get an extra hours sleep.

Too often when companies talk about work/life balance, they focus only on how to maximize the “work” aspect without impacting the “life” part. But what if the answer to the future of work was more radical? What if we started talking about life/work balance. What if life was prioritized?

Changing the entire working world isn’t something that is going to happen over night, but when companies become more conscious about the cultures they build and the demands they make of their employees, we can start to build a better future.

Of course flexible working shouldn’t come with the sacrifice of productivity. The idea of flexible working is to fit productive work into your life, not to say goodbye to productive work all together.

When tech unicorn Bolt moved to a four-day workweek, founder and CEO Ryan Breslow summed it up:

“Work will fill the space you give to it. My bet is that we’re going to become vastly more efficient from Monday to Thursday. We’ll trim those excess meetings; we won’t send unnecessary communications. Because we’ll have less time, we’ll get more concrete work done.”

If we think about the future of work as flexibility, we’re saying that we plan on allowing work to take up the space that works for our schedules, not that we’ll schedule our life around work.