Why flexible working is going mainstream
Here at Ten2Two, a flexible and part-time recruitment agency, we welcome news that jobs may be advertised more flexibly in future.
It’s something that has been a concern for working mums, carers and anyone returning to work after a career break due to extended maternity leave or chronic illness.
It seems the uptake of flexible working has not increased since 2010, according to fresh research by CIPD and the government’s Flexible Task Force. As a result, employers are being urged to advertise job vacancies with the tag line ‘Happy to Talk Flexible Working’.
As People Management’s article reveals, the percentage of the UK workforce with a flexible working arrangement has not risen above the 27 per cent seen in 2010, according to the CIPD Megatrends: Flexible Working report.
Employers and the need to offer flexible working
We ask ourselves, why aren’t more employees working flexibly when we’re constantly being told the desire is there? Unfortunately, it would seem our culture of presenteeism persists and outdated thinking pervades the office floor of many businesses.
We know that presenteeism is a major barrier to more employers adopting flexible working, and as a flexible recruitment consultancy, we are well aware that this needs to change. Once it does, the working world will see positive change – with happier employees, reduced absenteeism and the ability to attract a wider talent pool.
It might seem like a stalemate situation, but actually, we have found that this isn’t always the case. There are progressive employers out there who recognise the many benefits of offering flexible working to the business and its employees..
Progressive employers making a flexible difference
We work with many of these employers, such as the flexible business and trailblazer, Rebel Kitchen MD, Adam Thompson expresses the need to embrace flexibility brilliantly.
He says, “I think the way we operate to ‘time’ is becoming incredibly redundant. We should talk more about a work-life blend and allow people to find a rhythm that best suits them and allows them to operate at their best to achieve greater levels of achievement, happiness, fulfilment and productivity; and I feel companies should have a responsibility to support that.
“We all know that some of us are morning people and some are evening people so at Rebel Kitchen we try to create the conditions to encourage that. You can often find me saying to my team, you want to work from 6am until 11am and then go do your thing and clock back in again a bit later? You do it. Or you find yourself in a productive creative spell late at night, go with it and adjust your time accordingly.”
This is an interesting viewpoint from a forward-thinking company, but clearly it’s not entirely radical. Richard Branson and Ariana Huffington are among the growing ranks who have been vocal as thought leaders who suggest it’s not about where or how you work, but what you achieve in your working day.
It makes sense that companies are increasingly looking for ways to better engage their staff with the lure of work incentives like unlimited holidays, as per Netflix and Virgin. But the easy wins are even closer to home – namely by offering flexible working to all staff. Publicis is just one company who are leading the way in this vein. The thought is, that if you give employees what they need to work more effectively and balance the other stress factors in their life, you can promote productivity, discretionary effort and overall employee happiness.
Flexible working and the link with productivity
Deborah adds, “There’s a massive link between productivity and flexible working. Companies are seeking to evolve as workplaces catch up with the digital revolution. Flexible working isn’t just about offering employees the tools to work wherever they can, it’s about giving them the chance to be more productive in the time they work. There are lots of studies that say the actual working day is only five hours long in terms of productivity. We see this as encouraging news in terms of getting more employers thinking about adopting agile working techniques.”
Rebel Kitchen MD, Adam Thompson adds, “We don’t know what the landscape will look like beyond 5 years’ time so as a leader that wants to create a business of the future, I need to be looking at what might need changing to support that, and how the coming generations will work.”
“We already have case studies from Scandinavia whereby shortening working hours has increased productivity and the gig economy is in full swing; both of which connect the theme of flexibility so I think it’s fair to say it’s not going anywhere.”
It’s a sure sign that employers are realising that the way we work is changing. Those who get on board with this as early adopters will soon reap the benefits.
The rise of experience culture extends to working life
Flexible working is about gaining more hours in the working week to tend to the other commitments in your life – and also, with any luck, that will include making space for you to grow and develop as a person. It leads to reduced stress levels and a better quality of life for everyone.
Deborah O’Sullivan, Managing Director at Ten2Two, says, “We’ve seen attitudes shift based on what people actually want out of life. It used to be that work was everything, and money aside, while it is still highly important for professional people to have a purpose that is directly linked to their working lives, there is also an expectation that life will take them on more than one journey. This is reflected by the rise in the experience culture. People simply want more time.”
“We’re seeing a rise in portfolio careers with many people registering with our flexible recruitment consultancy so they can pursue hobbies alongside their professional role. This could be a day off a week to write a book, do exercise or to walk their dog. It really depends on the individual. But the point is, flexible working is no longer just a working mother’s issue. It is increasingly an ‘employer’s issue’.”
Flexible working was indeed and in some cases, still is considered as a working mother’s issue. Since Shared Parental Leave was introduced, we know that this is outdated and outmoded. Flexible working is an ‘everyone’ issue.
Deborah O’Sullivan says, “Fathers are increasingly seeking to play a greater part in the day-to-day logistics of their children’s lives. It’s interesting that we never really use the term ‘working father’, as if it’s a given. But we see companies popping up with names like ‘mummy jobs’ and similar.”
“We’re definitely not knocking what they’re doing as we’re all trying to achieve the same thing – namely keeping more mothers in the workplace – but the point is, flexible jobs shouldn’t just be marketed at women alone because demand is increasing across the board.”
It’s another great case for the CIPD’s call for employers to use the line ‘Happy to Talk Flexible Working’ on their job adverts.
When you open up the conversation at the outset, you can give the signal that flexible working isn’t a ‘dirty’ phrase. It isn’t something that is only applicable for mums. It is something everyone can get involved in.
The case for the four-day week
Too right. Flexible working has been high on the agenda at the World Economic Forum in Davos 2019, so it seems to us that the conversation is opening up across the world. The digital era is in full swing and now that we have the tools to work wherever we want, we just need to shift employer attitudes that are falling behind the curve.
Leading experts suggest that a four-day working week boosts productivity and leads to lower stress-levels and greater employee engagement. In fact, it’s already been adopted by several businesses around the world. We’re certainly seeing greater media coverage of it, with many articles surfacing often.
For our flexible and part-time recruitment agency, a four-day week is one of the most frequently chosen working formats by employers and employees. For returners going back to work after having a baby, four days is manageable as it allows the employee to earn a similar salary as before, but also to save on a day’s childcare while they do it.
For those seeking portfolio careers, it gives a day for a person to follow their passions, whatever those may be, such as writing a book or pursuing a hobby.
Ultimately, the world is moving towards change. The way we work is already changing, and those who are realising this have a lot to gain.
If you’re an employer who would like to discuss ways you can adopt greater flexible working across your business, we offer flexible working consultancy. Sometimes it requires a little bit of thought to get your head around the way flexible working might change your existing working practices and we understand that.
Please do get in touch with Jane O’Gorman (firstname.lastname@example.org) for an initial in confidence discussion, who will be happy to help.
For the rest of us, the future is bright. It finally feels as if flexible working is becoming mainstream, but there’s still a lot more to do as the world of work catches up with all these emerging trends that are riding high on the back of the digital revolution. The century isn’t new anymore and it’s time we embraced change for everyone’s benefit…