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Is flexible working a trap?

We often hear that professionals who require flexible working to do their jobs find their career options become limited over time.

A recent survey found that 80% of mothers felt trapped in their current role because they didn’t feel confident they would find another one with the amount of flexibility they need. So what can you do if you feel flexible working is a trap?

In the UK, job adverts with salaries over £60,000 are three times more likely to offer flexible working than they did three years ago, according to research. But that still only accounts for 15% of jobs which is a tiny proportion in the scheme of things. It’s no wonder many professionals feel trapped by their current flexible working arrangements.

Here at our flexible recruitment agency, one such professional told us, “I feel unable to move on as I cannot find the same flexibility as I have not seen any roles in my field advertised as part-time”. Another said, “I feel I have outgrown my current company but am frustrated as I need to find another role that is just as local and part-time – but I simply can’t”.

The good news is, new legislation is being considered whereby every new job will have to be advertised as offering flexible working. Flexibility is also being viewed as an important benefit for companies to offer in the race to attract top talent in a candidate-driven market, where unemployment is at an all-time low. Employers do need to consider how they keep roles interesting, however, particularly for part-time employees so they feel valued and stretched.

Take action – sign up and speak out

We tell professionals who feel flexible working is a trap, that they shouldn’t despair. The first and most obvious line of action is to approach a flexible recruitment agency like Ten2Two. There are also networking groups to be found online and in local areas. These can be well worth investing time in as word of mouth is a powerful place to begin the hunt for new roles.

Get busy on LinkedIn

Brush up your LinkedIn profile and get in touch with ex-colleagues and friends to see what’s out there. Often, a conversation can lead to a bigger opportunity as people are recognising that flexibility is required to find certain skills and attract talent to their business. Share industry news and show you’re keen and ambitious about your industry. You may even find yourself headhunted if you’re seen to be active with something to say.

Look for a job share partner

If your role is very involved with an industry culture of presenteeism, why not consider the job share route. While you are networking, you might also reach out to like-minded professionals to find a potential job share partner. A job share can be an excellent way to approach companies who are hiring, whilst setting out the case for businesses to hire two heads for the price of one. Read more about job shares here.

Look for local, full-time roles

Unfortunately, it is still the case that many professionals apply for full-time roles, get offered the job and then have the conversation about flexible working options. This is particularly hard for working mothers and fathers who are already stretched for time. They have to interview, often two or three times before being offered a role. Then, and only then, can the discussion happen around flexibility. It works for some people however – so you have to weigh up the pros and cons of taking this course of action.

Seek companies known for being ‘good’ employers

If you can do some homework about a company before the interview and see if they are known for having a good workplace culture and flexible working benefits, you may get a feel as to how a conversation around flexible working might go. As we say, the conversation around flexibility is opening up, so don’t be surprised to find this leads to a new role that works for you. Check out Glassdoor and see if you can contact employees in the know.

Shake up your current role

If you feel trapped but don’t necessarily want to leave your company and have an approachable manager, it’s worth having a chat with them about ways you can take on more responsibility or to help you feel more motivated in your current role. Make sure you’re getting regular appraisals – push for this and show a willingness to stretch yourself by putting your hand up for tasks you wouldn’t otherwise necessarily work on, if applicable.

Try not to work unpaid overtime

Many part-time workers find they often have too much to do in less time and for less pay – especially those who return to a role post maternity leave and cut down their hours to find work-life balance. If you feel trapped because you are doing too much, think about how your role could work better for you – for example, can you assign duties to other workers and focus on the work you’re best at instead?

Follow the campaign for flexible working for all

Many workers feel trapped in their roles because we still have a long way to go as a nation in beating presenteeism and focusing on output and productivity over the way hours and projects are completed.

If you work in a company like this, chances are the company culture won’t change very soon, but it’s worth sharing best practice thinking around flexible working and try to change mindsets from within. You only have to look at Timewise, Working Families and Mother Pukka’s work to see that the campaign for flexible working for all is gathering apace.

Consider freelance contracting or self-employment

There’s a view that it is easier to find a role when you’re in a role. For those part-time and flexible professionals who are juggling too many plates, self-employment can be an attractive option. But remember, with current IR35 tax changes, the goalposts have changed and it may not pay you financially to take this path. Whatever you do, try to take a long-term view of your career path.

Still feel flexible working is a trap?

It might help to meet other likeminded individuals in a similar position to yourself. Ten2Two often hosts FREE Member events where we get to meet candidates seeking flexible working. It can be a very positive experience to hear from others seeking flexibility, so make sure you register with our recruitment agency today to be among the first to hear about our next workshops.


6 min read