Earlier this month, the CIPD published a report on flexible working. The report highlighted that, since 2010, the number of employees using flexible working arrangements has flat-lined1. This news got us thinking. Why are the numbers flat-lining, even though the right to request flexible working was extended to all employees back in 2014?
State of the nation
There’s actually a significant proportion of the workforce already working flexibly. A report by Timewise reveals that 63% of full-time employees already work flexibly in some way2.
Perhaps for this number to grow, a cultural shift is needed; changing the perception that flexible working is for parents or carers (despite legislation stating otherwise). Flexible working can work for any employee.
Indeed when you ask employees why they work flexibly, caring for children or other dependents is only cited by 29%2. Allowing time for study or leisure, cutting down commute time, the general convenience of flexible working, and more control over work-life balance are all cited reasons that rank higher than childcare2.
The traditional 9-5 working pattern is now old hat in many industries. Smaller businesses and start-ups seem to be at the forefront, embracing flexible working styles. But it’s not just small businesses that can be agile.
Digital solutions that enable flexible working are becoming more robust and reliable and can help your workforce stay connected, regardless of where they might be, or when they might be working. Providing the right equipment such as laptops and mobile phones is the first step, but employers can make connectivity even easier. File sharing, instant messaging and video calling can all help smarter collaboration for remote workers. And most importantly, recreate a sense of community that can be missed when you’re not in the office.
Where there’s a need for employees to be in a certain physical location, employers can offer flexibility through working hours; flexitime, condensed hours, annualised hours, or staggered hours. These ways of working provide employees with flexibility, but still allow them to be in a particular workplace.
What are the benefits of flexible working?
Employees now expect to have greater control over their working lives, and how work fits in with personal commitments. By allowing employees to use a flexible working arrangement, employers can help redress work-life balance. The top reason, cited by 57% of full-time employees, for wanting to work flexibly is that it gives more control over work-life balance2.
Work-life balance can be an important factor in maintaining mental wellbeing too. The CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and Well-being at Work 2018 report found that long hours impacting work-life balance was a main cause of stress at work in 14% of organisations3. And flexible working options are among the most common methods used to reduce stress in the workplace3.
For businesses, flexible working can also help with recruitment, and attracting top talent. Currently, 87% of employees either work flexibly or would prefer to2. When this is such a big priority for employees, it makes sense for organisations to include flexible working options in job adverts where possible, or they could risk losing out on talent. Employers should consider being more transparent in job adverts and having open discussions about flexible working, with candidates, throughout the recruitment process.
There are some great benefits that flexible working can offer a business and its employees. And with the creation of the government’s Flexible Working Task Force, hopefully more organisations will embrace flexible working.
CIPD Megatrends Flexible Working report, Jan 2019
Timewise Flexible Working: A Talent Imperative report, Sept 2017
CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and Well-being at Work 2018 report