Escaping the standard 9 to 5 working day, particularly in the warm summer months is something many people dream of. Add to this a desire to shift from stifling office hierarchies and old fashioned processes to a more modern working environment, it’s no surprise that flexible working is on the rise – and it shows.
Our recent Salary Survey and Recruitment Trends report has shown a dramatic increase in the number of people now able to access flexible working, from just 28% in 2015 to 89% in 2019.
However, it’s not as clear cut as it appears as only a third of people who can access flexible working, actually do.
What do people want?
We’re bombarded with articles and blogs telling us how amazing flexible working is, how it can improve productivity and change our lives. We’ve all seen the standard images of happy people, with the associated Apple products, sipping coffee (always coffee, never tea), whilst being super productive. But is it what people actually want? And for those that do, are they even able to do it?
The government describes flexible working as “a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, for example having flexible start and finish times, or working from home”. But let be honest, is this definition, by an institution that’s been around for hundreds of years, the best place to be taking advice on modern working practices?
For some people, they’re perfectly happy with their standard or ‘core’ hours. These ‘creatures of habit’ are comfortable with coming to and from work at the same time each day and like the routine this gives them. But are these people being portrayed as ‘archaic’? And is this fair? Surely, it’s what works best for the individual that makes the most sense. There is no doubt that technological advancements have enabled a ‘work anywhere, anytime’ approach, but it’s simply not for everyone.
On the flip-side, there are those who do want flexible working in their lives but ironically, struggle to find the time, or feel uncomfortable asking for it. The daily pressures of work, technology restrictions and/or a micro-management approach can make it nearly impossible for employees to enjoy the perk..
Flexibility over flexible hours
In some cases, employees would actually rather work in an environment which gives them flexibility instead of flexible hours. For example, if their child was poorly, they would have the option to work remotely at short notice, or where people could pop to the doctors during office hours – because we all know how easy it is to even get a doctor’s appointment these days, let alone one that falls within a lunch hour!
Businesses who have embraced flexible working need to be careful they don’t create a disgruntled workforce by offering a benefit that staff either can’t or are forced to utilise. It’s by no means an easy situation, but it’s one that must be carefully considered and analysed.
It’s good to talk
We believe that the best approach to flexible working is open and honest communication between employers and employees. This might not be the best advice but sometimes, a good old-fashioned face to face conversation (which could even happen over Skype), could be just what’s needed.