May | 2019 | Team Activities | Workplace Insights
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The rising importance of flexible working for the under 45s
Many employers today are beginning to offer flexible working as a perk, understanding that they need to adapt to attract and retain the best, but keeping the traditional 9-5 core hours. Offering flexible working as a perk implies that it is simply ‘nice to have’ but should it be an integral part of company culture?
With many of the biggest names in business believing that the traditional hours of 9-5, five days a week will disappear in the future, we wanted to find out if companies should be taking flexible working more seriously. It’s still less likely to see job adverts offering flexible working arrangements and ‘choose your own hours’ than the traditional 9-5 office hours.
Managers often ask their employees about the status of their workload, but not about how the office hours are working for them. Curious as to what employees think with the openness that unanimity brings, we conducted our own workplace survey. We asked employees from 114 companies what they thought so that we could find out whether flexible working is worth the hype.
The demand – who wants to flex and why
The results of the Wildgoose survey reflect a clear demand for flexible working and choosing your own hours. It isn’t just a women’s issue and it cuts across the age groups.
Nearly 8 out of 10 of those surveyed and working in non-flexible working environments said the ability to work flexibly was significant – either essential (14.3%), very important (42.9%) or somewhat important (20%).
Those who chose ‘essential’ were agreeing with the following statement: ‘I am struggling to do my role effectively and am considering changing jobs to one where I can work more flexibly’ and the full statement for those who chose ‘very important’ is: ‘being able to work flexibly allows me to stay productive whilst juggling life outside of work that makes the normal 9-5 difficult’.
These employees who answered ‘essential’ or ‘very important’ will be either actively looking for another job, or wouldn’t remain faithful to their company if they were head-hunted. The key message here is that if an employer does not currently offer flexible working, then there is a real urgency to do so. 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 43% of employees say the ability to work remotely is a must-have, yet only 38% of employers allow it.
It’s clear from this 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. Half of men not working in a flexi-working environment say the ability to do so would help them better manage their mental health, versus 1/3 of women.
✔ Increased productivity
69% of workers currently not offered flexible working say that they would be more productive as they could work at times better suited to them.
Our survey found that 68% of parents (who can work flexibly) say that it’s vitally important for them to juggle both work and family life. So without that ability to work flexibly, they would be forced to leave their current job.
Of those parents currently working in flexible working environments, 73% responded ‘essential; I wouldn’t be able to do my job without it and would consider looking elsewhere were it removed’ or ‘very important; working flexibly allows me to stay productive whilst balancing life outside of work’ when asked how important flexible working was to them, in comparison to 67% of non-parents.
Whilst flexible working is especially important for parents, almost 45% of non-parent participants said that flexible working is very important for their productivity. This highlights that flexible working is more than just a parental issue – 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
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 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 costs plateaued.
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. The big banks save huge amounts per desk – furniture, heating, electricity, computers, telephones etc. Now when the large banks move offices they cut desks, but not staff – as a deliberate move to force flexibility.
✔ Attracting higher quality employees
Flexible working hours or working from home can have benefits wider than employee happiness:
- 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
It costs companies thousands to employ someone, so it is cost-effective to retain their staff. 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 as a huge backwards step, BNY Mellon have suggested scrapping flexible working, but this would potentially lead to a mass exodus of staff and legal issues if they proceed. This is a public example of the power that flexible working now commands.
Our survey confirms that flexible working is the future, and it needs to be built into your company culture now. Employees are the backbone of your company, so if you don’t offer flexible working, you should consider doing so or you won’t be able to attract new talent and current employees could be looking for somewhere else to work, which ultimately impacts your bottom line.