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Are bosses dropping the ball on flexible working?

03 / 10 / 2017
Are bosses dropping the ball on flexible working?The typical nine-to-five workday is rapidly becoming a thing of the past in the UK.

As early as 2010, researchers found the average clock-in time was 8:33am, with staff not leaving their desks until 5:29pm. Throw in an average 33-minute lunch break, and Brits are typically working approximately an hour-and-a-half longer each day than Dolly Parton's 1980 classic.

It's understandable, then, that nearly 60 per cent of workers believe the 9-5 model is outdated, with 49 per cent saying that mobile working now enables the majority of people to perform their jobs from anywhere at anytime.

But are bosses keeping pace with evolving flexible working trends? And could they be missing out on attracting the best talent by sticking to rigid workplace practices? Let's see what the latest research has to say.

Flexible working on the rise

A recent Timewise study revealed that 63 per cent of people already work flexibly in some way. This means they either:
  • Work flexible hours (known as flexitime);
  • Work from home or remotely;
  • Choose shifts;
  • Participate in seasonal or term-time hours; or
  • Work part-time.
Moreover, nearly nine in ten (87 per cent) respondents said they are working flexibly already or wish they could. Our own research identified a similar trend, with a growing number of corporate governance workers ranking flexible working as a key reason for switching jobs.

For example, 63 per cent of compliance professionals reported they have access to some form of flexible working, yet three-quarters admitted they want more of these opportunities. This figure was notably higher than the 67 per cent who said the same in 2016.

Full Potential Group found that flexible working was by far the biggest job motivator across all age groups, with 67 per cent saying these benefits galvanised them. Meanwhile, 46 per cent said freedom to make their own decisions was important and salary was only mentioned by 33 per cent.

Employers fail to adapt

The research suggests that far from embracing the flexible working mantra, some employers may even be punishing staff for requesting a bit more leeway in their jobs.

The Trades Union Congress said 42 per cent of lower-paid mums and dads felt they were penalised for requesting flexible hours in order to manage their childcare arrangements. Employees reported receiving fewer hours, being offered less favourable shifts and even losing their jobs.

Two-thirds of parents weren't aware of their legal right to unpaid parental leave, with 29 per cent resorting to taking sick days or holidays when their children were ill or required emergency care.

Low-paid workers aren't the only ones prevented from flexible working in the UK. CV Library statistics show that 72.7 per cent of people still don't have the option to work from home in 2017.

The Timewise report noted that many people are sacrificing career progression and higher salaries to remain in jobs that offer the flexibility they need. Unfortunately, this exacerbates skills gaps and forces highly skilled workers into jobs where they are overqualified.

Key drivers of flexible working

According to Timewise, fewer than one in ten permanent roles that pay more than £20,000 a year advertise flexible working perks.

This creates a significant imbalance between the number of people seeking flexible roles (87 per cent) and job listings that emphasise flexibility (9.8 per cent).

Youngers workers are particularly eager to have a better work-life balance, with 92 per cent either already in a flexible role or wanting to switch to one. This is perhaps why the Full Potential Group said 20-year-olds are the most demotivated staff in British companies; 33 per cent said their work-life balance was poor and 25 per cent highlighted stress as a problem.

The reasons for desiring flexibility are fairly diverse, meaning it's not just parents who want more choice over when, where and how they do their jobs.

Timewise data ranked the most-cited reasons as:
  • Greater control over work-life balance (57 per cent);
  • General convenience (50 per cent);
  • Cuts down on commuting time (33 per cent);
  • Allows more time for study or leisure (32 per cent); and 
  • Helps with caring for children and other dependants (29 per cent).
"Times have changed, and now the younger generation is less motivated by money or material awards but more by autonomy and a work-life balance," said Carole Gaskell, managing director of the Full Potential Group.

Do you have a proactive approach to flexibility?

Flexible working is clearly becoming more important to British employees, and younger people are especially keen to explore opportunities outside the traditional nine-to-five structure.

Employers could therefore be missing out on a new generation of talented candidates by failing to highlight the flexible work benefits offered within available roles.

Businesses should also reassess how proactive their flexible work policies are.

"Employers must build a proactive, flexible working strategy that makes it part of 'the norm', and opens it up to all employees equally, rather than targeting it at specific groups," the Timewise report stated.

Our research shows that corporate governance departments are no exception to this flexible working revolution.

Organisations may have to adapt their way of thinking if they want to attract and retain the best applicants, particularly as skills shortages deepen across the UK.

Please get in touch with a Barclay Simpson consultant to help you advertise your next vacancy. 

Our 2017 Compensation and Market Trends Report combines our review of the prevailing conditions in the corporate governance recruitment market together with the results of our latest employer survey.

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