Flexible working has become increasingly topical in recent years and is no longer limited to parents returning to work – achieving a work/life balance is now a common expectation for all workers.

The rise of flexible working has been so dramatic in this decade that 87% of UK employees now either work flexibly or want to do so. So much so that in 2018, a YouGov report claimed the death of the 9-5 working day.

What is flexible working?

Flexible working may have a different meaning or potential benefit depending on your situation. The UK Government defines examples of flexible working as ‘different start and finish times’ or ‘working from home’, but it could be expanded to include:

  • Working remotely
  • Working part-time, job-sharing or flexi-time.
  • Working staggered or compressed hours.

How and why flexible working has become so topical could be linked to advances in technology and connectivity, as employees are now able to shape their working days in a way that suits them.

It even stretches as far as utilising your journey to-and-from work to clear your inbox – a study from the University of the West of England showed that 54% of us that commute by rail use the onboard wifi to send work emails.

What does flexible working improve?

While there have been multiple studies proving the endless benefits to employers that offer flexible working, there are three key advantages that stand out:  

  • Talent Attraction – Whether you believe that there’s a talent shortage or not, it’s far easier to bring in top talent by offering a more modern benefits package as part of your EVP. According to research by Powwownow, 75% of candidates would opt for a company that offers flexible arrangements.
  • Productivity – a study by AAT showed that employees that are offered flexible working take less leave and are more productive, while YouGov reported in 2017 that 89% of employees considered flexible working as a primary factor behind their productivity.
  • Retention – the same AAT report noted that 75% of respondents would decline the opportunity of a new job if it didn’t offer flexible working. This is backed up by a research from BT that showed roughly the same percentage list flexible working in their top three priorities.  

Negative perceptions of flexible working

While flexible working opportunities have taken huge strides this decade, and new laws issued in 2014 give employees a statutory right to request flexible working after 26 weeks’ service, it still all comes as a cost.

Research from Kent University shows that flexible working arrangements are still viewed negatively by colleagues and may produce potential career blockers. Another study by Timewise also found that 68% of part-time workers feel as though they’ve accepted career compromises in order to work more flexibly.

As such, the term ‘flexism’ has been coined.

Alternatives to flexible working

In our recent Future of Work report, we noted that data and technology coming into HR departments could lead the way for an ‘Optimal Working’ practice. We’re now conducting further research to determine the appetite for such working methods in the digital and creative sectors, from both an employer and employee perspective.

HR leaders can provide their thoughts on flexible working in this survey, while employees in the digital and creative space can share their views here.

We’ll be sharing the outputs of both surveys, along with other research, later in 2019.