Nine in ten UK professionals think that flexible working will become the dominant employment model in the near future according to research from specialist HR recruiter Ortus. HR professionals are even stronger in this belief as 96% said it will become the main model.
Despite this, just one in ten professionals (12%) deem flexible working to be a vital benefit. This is lower than the proportion who said a free company mobile phone is vital to them.
Adopted for Business Reasons
The research conducted among 450 professionals across a variety of sectors suggests employees think flexible working will be adopted for business reasons rather than the benefit to the workforce. Fifty one per cent felt the reason behind the growth of flexible working is efficiency and productivity – a clear business benefit. Just 12% thought it would be implemented to help people manage the number of hours they work, and, in contrast with some arguments, just 1 in 10 said they thought it was being implemented to help with gender equality.
Perhaps as a result of flexible working being seen as a benefit for the business rather than the individual, separate research among 3,000 professionals found it is only the sixth most valued benefit. It ranks behind more personal offerings and financial assistance including holidays and a company pension.
Top Benefits Ranked as Vital
1. 25 days holiday (40%)
2. Company pension scheme (29%)
3. Annual bonus scheme (24%)
4. Mobile phone/blackberry (18%)
5. Insurance (16%)
6. Flexible working (12%)
Stephen Menko, UK director of Ortus said,
“These findings suggest that HR professionals have their work cut out for them in convincing staff of the relative merits of flexible working. The business case is obvious as it allows for efficiency savings on office costs and greater output. However the benefit to the individual of a better work life balance and less time and money spent commuting are perhaps surprisingly ranked low and maybe HR need to convey this cost-effective (for the business) benefit in a more compelling way. Widespread flexible working could be a seismic shift in the way work is conducted and it is that rare beast – a change that benefits everyone. Staff just need to be convinced of this point, or at least have it raised on their radar as a benefit they can request. I think for a lot of organisations it’s not even considered as something that can be entertained.”
Unaware of the right to ask for flexibility
The majority of people also appear to be unaware that they are entitled to request flexible working, as just a third of those questioned said this was something their company offered, whereas government statistics estimate that 91% of employers offer flexible working.
The research found that almost twice as many female professionals rank flexible working as ‘vital’ compared with men. Sixteen percent of women said this, compared with just 9% of men. In contrast, men (28%) ranked receiving a bonus as vital, compared with women (21%).
Stephen Menko continued,
“Despite changing family structures, the responsibility for childcare still very often falls on the mother, explaining, in part, some of the reasons for gender inequality in the UK workforce; as often women forgo career paths to focus on family life and in doing so can miss out on experience and opportunity which can impact their remuneration potential. In this context the appetite for flexible working, amongst women, is clear and should be sated for many reasons, but notably it enables people, of any gender, to juggle other commitments with their careers, and it does so to the benefit of the businesses they work for. HR professionals have a role in helping to give voice to this market request for flexible working, and to help companies stay competitive in the process by keeping their best talent, whatever its gender.”