The 2019 Flexible Working Survey

May 24, 2019

Paris Stevens

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The rising importance of flexible working for the under 45s

Many employers today are beginning to offer flexible working as part of their employee benefits packages, understanding that they need to rethink their approach to working hours in order to attract and retain the best talent. But is it really enough to offer flexible working simply as a ‘nice to have?’ Or should it be an integral part of company culture?

With many of the biggest names in business believing that the traditional 9-5 is on it’s way out, we wanted to find out if and why companies should be putting flexible working at the heart of their business’.

It’s commonplace for managers to check in with their team to ask about their workload, but broaching the subject of flexible working is still seen as taboo for many managers and employees alike. Wanting to know what employees think, we anonymously surveyed employees from 114 companies to find out if flexible working is all it’s cracked up to be.

The demand – who wants to flex and why

The results of the Wildgoose survey reflect a clear demand for flexible working and a preference towards a model outside the traditional 9-5. Stereotypically, flexible working has been seen as an option solely for mothers returning to work, but no matter how we sliced up our data, the results showed that it isn’t just a maternal issue.

Nearly 8 out of 10 of those surveyed who are not allowed to work flexibly said that having the ability to do so would be very significant for them.

In fact, 14.3% (essential) of those indicated that they are actively considering a career move to an organisation that would offer them flexible working, citing that the rigidity of their hours is stopping them from doing their role effectively.

Additionally, a further 42.9% of people who currently don’t have access to flexible working, suggested that having the ability to do so would allow them to maintain or even boost their productivity levels whilst juggling life outside of work at the same time. Again, this suggests that people in this bracket are likely to feel less loyal to their employer, opting to change jobs should something more flexible come along.

The key message here is that if an employer wants to retain their talent and avoid unexpected recruitment costs, then introducing an accessible flexible working policy is a logical and urgent next step. Take a look at our graph:

Flexible work environments are wholly enabled by a digital workplace – video conferencing and digital collaboration – and it’s a good thing for employee engagement.

However, another recent survey by Staples found that whilst 43% of employees say the ability to work remotely is a must-have, only 38% of employers allow it.

It’s clear from this gulf between the two, that flexible working needs to be taken seriously.

The benefits of flexible working for your employees  

✔  Work/life balance

Over 60% of UK employees surveyed feel the regular 9-5 no longer works for them as they try to balance life in and out of work.

✔ Mental health

Over 39% of the people surveyed who work flexibly see a noticeable improvement in their mental health. Similarly, almost 43% of people who do not have the option of flexible working, feel it would enable them to better manage their mental health. When you split this out by gender,  half of men not working in a flexible working environment say that doing so would help them better manage their mental health, in comparison to just 1/3 of women.

✔ Increased productivity

69% of workers currently not offered flexible working say that they would be more productive if they could, as they would be able to work at times better suited to them.

✔ Parenting

Our survey found that 68% of parents (who can work flexibly) feel it’s vitally important in helping them to juggle both work and family life. This means that if flexible working was taken away, parents could potentially find themselves in a situation where they have to pay more for costly childcare or leave their role.

Contrary to popular belief, our survey results demonstrate that flexible working isn’t just an issue for parents, with 73% of parents vs 67% of non-parents indicating that this style of working is both essential for them to juggle life in and out of the office, and helping them maintain their productivity levels Take a look at the results in our interactive graph below:

The benefits of flexible working for your company

✔ Reducing the cost of desk space

Flexible working isn’t just a new fad favored by young startup companies, even the large blue-chip companies have cottoned on to the fact that they can expand while saving money by offering flexible working. Our survey found that the bigger the company, the more likely they are to offer flexible working:

Many companies are shrewdly reducing their costs for desk space by employing a rotational system for desks. This increases the potential number of employees, meaning the business can expand while keeping office running costs lower.

Major banks such as Barclays now ask employees to work from home a number of days a week so that several employees can share one desk in the office. This is resulting in huge savings on their overheads, and demonstrates how flexible working doesn’t just benefit employees but can have real business benefits too.

✔ Attracting higher quality employees

Flexible working hours or working from home can have many more benefits that just employee happiness including:

  • Attracting higher quality employees. This is because flexible working provides you with access to a broader talent pool of candidates. In promoting flexibility you will also make the business more attractive to work for. In turn, this will increase the supply and diversity of people who might be right for a job, with many people becoming employed on a flexible basis who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to do the job. And this leads to a more diverse workforce and more potential to close the digital skills gap (which is widening fast).
  • Expanding your potential client pool. Having a more diverse, higher quality workforce can be used to employ a wider net reach for attracting clients
  • Attracting Generation Z.  As you can see from the table below, our survey found that 100% of 18-20 year olds think it is ‘essential’ to work in offices that offer flexible working, and this importance increases for 35-44 year olds (39%), likely due to parenting responsibilities.

✔ Employee retention

If costs of recruitment can run into the tens of thousands, so it makes business sense to try and retain top talent where possible. Our survey found that 14% of people working in non-flexible office environments are considering changing jobs for one that does offer flexible working. This figure rises to 21% of parents in the same situation.

Flexible working has to become a priority, now.

In what appears to be a  huge backwards step, BNY Mellon is considering scrapping flexible working, but in doing so, they could face a mass exodus of staff and face legal challenges, highlighting how much power flexible working now commands in business.

Our survey confirms that flexible working is the future, and needs to be built into your company culture now. Employees are the backbone of your company, so attracting and maintaining top talent through flexible working shows that you not only care about your bottom line…but also your people.

Like this type of thing? Over the past few years, we have commissioned surveys on a variety of workplace issues which you can find below:

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