The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Durham University are launching a joint project exploring how flexible working practices can benefit businesses and communities in the North East.
The Good Work Agenda project aims to identify how businesses and employees can adapt to new ways of working after the impact of COVID-19, and to highlight organisations that have successfully adopted flexible working practices.
The team is now looking for North East businesses that have examples of successful flexible working to share.
Professor Jo McBride from Durham University said: “We know that flexible working, when done in a way that works both for organisations and the whole workforce, can help make businesses more successful, and employees feel more supported and engaged.
“COVID-19 is challenging the notion of what ‘normal’ working looks like, and we are temporarily working with a ‘new form of flexibility’. As a result of the pandemic, employers are discovering what is and is not possible and we are also facing an opportunity to reflect on the way we work, and how we can encourage ‘good working’ in the future.”
The project builds on ‘The Forgotten Workers’ research by Prof Jo McBride at Durham University and Dr Andrew Smith from Bradford University, and work previously carried out by the North East LEP. Both projects identified flexible working and underemployment – when employees’ skills and experience aren’t fully utilised – as areas where improvements could have a positive impact on the North East regional economy.
Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East LEP, said: “When flexible working is at its best, it allows people to work to the best of their ability, to make the most of their skills, and to feel secure in their roles.
“As our region begins to recover from the impact of COVID-19, we want to hear from businesses about their experiences of managing flexibility before and after the pandemic, and to learn how we can all work in a better way in the future.”
Emma Ward, Research and Evaluation Manager at the North East LEP, added: “This is part of a wider programme of research between the University and the North East LEP and we aim to develop a closer research relationship, drawing particularly on Durham University’s expertise in social and economic research.
“We’re committed to delivering a North East Strategic Economic Plan that is underpinned by robust evidence, and a key commitment of Durham University’s strategy is for research to have a positive impact on regional challenges, with cultural, social and economic benefits.”
The research team is very keen to hear from North East employers in any sector who have good examples of flexible working practices to share.
Businesses will take part in an online interview with the academic researchers, and the findings will be shared through a series of case studies in 2021.
The project complements the North of Tyne Combined Authority’s Good Work pledge and aims to help employers across the whole North East LEP area benefit from successful flexible working.