Overwhelming support for normalisation of flexible working

Century 21


Some 96% of working mums say flexible working should be the norm, according to a Workingmums.co.uk poll.

The poll shows a huge desire for a more flexible work culture with only one per cent  disagreeing and the rest saying they were not sure. It comes after the Recruitment and Employment Confederation published a report saying flexible working should be a standard offering in new roles if employers want to meet the challenges of the labour market.

One woman said simply that parents with young families need flexibility. Another remarked: “Work is a part of your life, but it shouldn’t take up your entire life. Everyone needs a balance between work and life commitments.

Rebecca Bond left her job in the retail industry after her flexible working request – to reduce to four days a week – was turned down when she returned from maternity leave. She had reached area management level and has been unable to return to similarly paid employed work in the four years since. She now does two self employed jobs, but even with two jobs she reckons she earns around half her previous salary of nearly £30k a year and that she is working 25% more.She says she would like to see businesses being forced to offer flexible working unless they can prove it won’t work.

She states: “If it was mandatory then both parents would be able to split it between them. There is no justification for the vast majority of office workers to be denied this kind of working arrangement.”

The new poll shows that flexible working is no longer acceptable for many as just an ad hoc add-on policy as has been the case in the past. The result has often led to flexible workers being sidelined and many have left organisations because they cannot see a way forward if they stay.

Parents need flexibility to be part of how we do business – and, of course, they are not the only ones. There are numerous reasons why employees want greater flexibility and control over their hours.

Many have made the business case for moving to more flexible ways of working to meet the rapidly changing demands of modern life. The HR implications are very stark – not having a truly flexible culture will lose you talent, motivation and commitment. Employers are looking at how they can make that flexibility normal from recruitment through to senior management.

With regard to recruitment, several employers are reviewing job descriptions regularly to ensure there is not a tendency to default to the traditional way the role has been carried out and to be open to different ways of doing it. They want to ensure the focus is on the desired outcomes and the competencies required rather than necessarily previous work experience and unnecessary qualifications.

Lloyds Bank recently launched its agile hiring programme which makes it mandatory for managers to define the degree of flexibility any new vacancy can accommodate. Managers have to consider how a job can be worked flexibly and if they don’t state that it can be they are challenged by recruiters and have to provide a robust rationale. The policy is about constantly challenging the norm at every point in the recruitment process. Ensuring agility is part of the system from the start is a key part of embedding flexibility and also of attracting a wider candidate base.

Good flexible or agile employers recognise the need to ensure they develop all their staff and that they showcase senior managers who are working flexibly. This encourages others to think they too can progress. These employers ensure training and career development takes into account flexible working, for instance, training may be offered online so that employees can take part when and where they wish or face to face training takes into account a team’s work patterns. Much of this requires different management strategies so training for managers in handling flexible teams is important. Many of the employers Workingmums.co.uk talks to who are trying to embed flexible cultures talk about the need for good forward planning. Several have developed toolkits for managers – and staff – around working flexibly.

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