Over half of the UK’s working population want the opportunity to work remotely or from home, but just a third have been encouraged to, with many feeling a constant stigma around it, according to a survey by My Family Care and recruitment experts Hydrogen.
The survey of 1,587 UK employees and 310 UK employers found a similar disconnect between the hours that people work and want to work. While just over a third (37%) of people have flexible start and finish times, almost double that (63%) said they wanted flexible start and finish times.
Flexible working is in such high demand that it is by far the top benefit that people look for when considering a new role – with 81% looking for flexible working options before joining a company, compared to other benefits such as an enhanced pension scheme (35%), private healthcare insurance (28%) or commission (28%) .
The survey found 53% of employees would rather have flexible working over a 5% salary increase while 45% of those who would sacrifice a pay rise for benefits would choose flexible working over a 10% salary increase.
The prioritisation of flexible working when looking for a new role was particularly true amongst parents of young children with 86% saying so, while 81% of adult dependant carers agreed.
Ben Black, Director of My Family Care, says: “With so many of any given workforce having some kind of caring or family responsibility, the benefits of flexible working are vast. With the rising number of working mothers in the UK, the increase in pension age, a rapidly ageing population – and the emergence of the so-called ‘sandwich generation’ where individuals are called upon to care for both their children and elderly relatives – businesses need to see the value in offering flexible working to attract and retain top quality staff. The ‘bums on seats’ culture is on the way out.
“Flexible working is the future; it should not even be seen as a ‘benefit’ but simply the best way of getting things done: it helps individuals create a happy and healthy work-life balance that is essential to get the very best out of an individual.”
However, the survey shows an enduring stigma surrounding flexible working, with more women (26%) than men (18%) worrying that working flexibly would impact on their career prospects. However, the research found that flexibility itself was equally important to both genders.
The research outlined the top five benefits of flexible working being productivity, the attraction of top talent, talent retention, a better work-life balance and happier employees. Some 87% of employees and 92% of employers believed that those who work flexibly are just as, if not more, productive than those who work regular hours. Analysis by sector showed that those who work in tech want to work remotely the most (75%), closely followed by accountancy (72%) and finance (64%). Similarly, it is the tech industry that is leading the way with flexible start and finish times – with 77% adding this to their wish list, followed by 74% of those who work in the energy sector and 67% of those who work in accountancy and finance.
The research also highlighted that over a quarter (28%) of employees don’t feel comfortable talking to their employer about introducing a more fluid working pattern. The top reasons for this were: 1. Being seen as less committed to the business (51%) 2. Worried it would impact their chances of future promotions and pay increases (31%) 3. Their employers would think they were trying to get out of work (30%).
The research also found that over half (55%) of millennials would like flexible start and finish times while nearly a quarter (24%)would like to work remotely more than once a week. Over half of employees (52%) said that it will be more challenging for organisations to retain staff if they don’t offer flexible working while 51% of people believe flexible working will become the norm for all businesses .