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The Demand For Flexible working

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By Michelle Gyimah – Recruitment and Relationship lead for Working Forward.

Book here for tickets to #NorthWestFlex, where Michelle is on the panel, on the 30th of November  2017. Where businesses discuss  flexible working.

The demand for flexible working is on the increase. According to The Timewise Flexible Job Index 2017[1], 54% of the population currently work in a part-time or flexible role. And many more want to; a recent survey indicated that 8.7 million people who weren’t already working part time wanted to do so[2].

So what’s driving this demand? Some of it is simple economics. The boom in the property market has led to city living being out of reach for much of the population; faced with a long commute, the ability to work some of the time from home is a real benefit. Equally, for employers, allowing remote working can significantly reduce an organisation’s office footprint and the associated costs.

Furthermore, as people live longer, more of us are planning to work past the typical retirement age. Over the next decade, the number of economically active people aged 65 and over is projected to increase by one third[3]; but this is likely to cause a bottleneck in terms of career progression for those below them. Phased retirement via flexible working is central to succession planning for both employers and employees.

At the other end of the scale, the millennial generation are displaying a different attitude towards work-life balance, with 92% of those born between 1980 and 2000 identifying flexibility as a top priority when job hunting.[4] So offering this flexibility will be central to attracting the best talent in the years ahead.

But a large part of the current demand for flexible working comes from people who have other responsibilities. From parents who want to balance their careers with looking after their children, to people with aging parents who need support, inflexible 9-5 jobs are simply not an option for some. For new mothers in particular, the barriers to returning to an inflexible role are considerable, ranging from practical issues such as the cost and timings of childcare to a loss of confidence and networks.

Despite the obvious business benefits of flexible working, some firms may feel less than confident in implementing flexible working. A key factor for this is around uncertainty of the practical logistics of how to implement flexible working. So what can you, as an employee do to reduce the resistance?

Consider all flexible working options

Flexible working comes in many different formats, so carefully consider what will be right you and your family and could be a good business fit for your employer. Your flexible working request is a negotiation not a battle so be prepared to negotiate to get what will work for you. Show that you have done your research and considered their needs as well as your own.

Suggest different communication modes

There is so much technology out there designed to help us do/access information without having to be in the office. Using technology like Skype, Zoom, Trello and Asana it is easy to run meetings and have accessible project boards for everyone to work together as a team.  See what you already have that you can use and suggest news ones to your firm. Many of these tools are relatively cheap, but could help drive up productivity, so research what is out there.

Suggest a trial period

If flexible working is new to the firm, why not suggest a 3 month trial to see how it goes? You and your employer then have that time to figure out what does and doesn’t work.  It can be hard to know beforehand how things will work out in real life and having a trial helps you both have the opportunity to change things if they are not working out.

Establish trust

By setting out your lines of communication you can help to alleviate any doubts that your employer may have about flexible working. For example you may agree specific days you will come in for meetings, or specific times you may have a check-in call or send regular update e-mails. There are many ways to establish trust through open conversation between you and your line manager. This is especially important if flexible working is not the norm in your workplace.

Be open

Talking about the business benefits of flexible working and how you make it work, helps others to see flexible working as a viable option. Flexible working isn’t just for mums, so it pays to be open about your experiences as it may just give other colleagues encouragement to ask for it too if they can see it is possible.

Support for employers

We know that creating a flexible working culture is important to business, but can be unnerving to put into practice if this is not the norm. This is why the EHRC along with leading firms such as BT, John Lewis, Nationwide, Royal Mail, Ford, Mitie and Barclays have created Working Forward for employers.

Working Forward is a coalition of employers, aimed at providing support and practical tools to help businesses   make their workplaces the best they can be for working parents and employees looking for more flexible working options. With currently over 160 members, it is a lively community spanning many industries, who are all working together to create work places that have flexible working at their core.


[2] 1,161 nationally representative workers were polled by ICM on behalf of Timewise in April 2014. ICM interviewed a random sample in GB online between 25th April and 26th April 2014 and results have been weighted to the profile of all adults and to the UK population. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.



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