In 2022, The Employee Relations (Flexible working) bill was introduced into UK parliament. The bill enables people to request flexible working from the outset, whereas previously employees had to work in a business for up to 26 weeks before making a request for flexible working.

With our research finding that over half of the UK workforce prefer a flexible hybrid working model, it stands to reason that the new regulations will have a huge impact on business operations and lead to an influx of flexible hybrid working requests.

Though employers will still have the right to refuse requests for hybrid working, refusals could lead to an uptick in trends like the great resignation and quite quitting within businesses, as well as having implications on the morale and culture within teams.

As such, businesses should look to implement tools that enable them to support dispersed workforces and hybrid working practices whilst enhancing productivity.

Implementing AI to help people work from anywhere

One hurdle for businesses embracing a flexible hybrid working model, is the need to manage dispersed teams. Teams working from different locations and time zones have the same needs as those working in the office, so managers need tools that ensure they offer the same level of support across the board.

For managers, it’s imperative they have oversight of team workload and progress of tasks, whilst ensuring there is an open line of communication if workers are stretched too thin. Our research suggests that 68% of managers struggle with communicating in general which could lead to employees’ work-life balance being sacrificed.

AI tools such as workflow automation, could support managers to identify peak workloads across teams and manage their schedules, so they can provide additional support where needed. Using platforms that enable managers to easily assign tasks and quickly share files can help simplify this process, further improving the employee-manager relationship.

AI can also help to ensure that employees have greater autonomy of how their working day is scheduled, without sacrificing a meeting to ensure this. Conversation intelligence tools can be used in meetings for example, to analyse previous meeting transcripts and provide insights into what topics were discussed, what actions were taken, and what decisions were made. This can help meeting participants better prepare for future meetings, and also catch up on what was discussed – without having to watch the recording. This can result in huge time savings that allow employees to spend time on other impactful tasks.

Understanding employee wants and needs

The UK workforce continues to evolve as workers and businesses aim to meet the needs of both the individual and the company. During such times, collecting employee sentiment can be incredibly difficult. Introducing AI based internal employee surveys, businesses can streamline the process of identifying what works and what needs to change within a company and keep everyone updated on the focus of the business.

These surveys can act as a form of performance appraisal for your business, so you can gain detailed insights into how employees feel and what they need. For instance, if a significant number of employees complain about a certain aspect of your business, it’s a sign that this needs to change, before these grumblings build and have a negative impact on business operations and employee sentiment.

The surveys will capture valuable employee data which businesses can use to improve the team’s experience, satisfaction, and retention metrics.

Flexible working supporting employer/employee relationships

As important as it is for businesses to understand immediate wants and needs from employees, it’s just as important to ensure that businesses address them as quickly as possible. Our research found that one fifth of workers in the UK are likely to experience burnout, leading to lower productivity and lower retention rates for businesses.

Management teams need to work quickly to implement policies and ways of working to better support employees and reduce burnout. For example, a combination of micro- breaks and longer breaks all have a positive impact on well-being and productivity. This way of working can be supported with tech like work flow automation, which provides employees with control over their working day and the ability to optimise how they use their time, when they take breaks, ultimately reducing burnout.

In the face of the Employee Relations Bill, businesses must prepare to better support teams working from anywhere on a more permanent basis. Onboarding the right AI tools can help employers support flexible hybrid working with greater ease, whilst simultaneously boosting workforce productivity and improving employer/employee relationships.


Louise Newbury-Smith is the UK and Ireland Country Manager at RingCentral.