Friday 26 July 2019 5:17 am

Want to clock off early? You're not alone

As the capital reaches record temperatures, many City workers would likely jump at the chance to be able to work when it suits them.

Frolicking outside in the sunshine probably sounds far more appealing than being stuck in a stuffy office. 

But even though it has been a legal right for employees to request flexible working since 2014, just 11 per cent of jobs paying more than £20,000 are advertised as being “flexible”.

MP Helen Whately’s introduction of a flexible working bill to parliament last week was a big step forward in the campaign to make the working week more reflective of the way many modern families want to live their lives. 

The bill suggests that employers should be required to offer flexible working as standard in all employment contracts, rather than it being up to employees to request it. 

This would result in organisations having to opt out of flexible working for a sound business reason. 

This approach reflects the pensions auto-enrolment legislation, which has been considered a success.

According to a recent candidate study from Totaljobs, 84 per cent of UK workers think that employers need to be more flexible with their hours, with 80 per cent stating that they’d be less likely to leave a job if their employer was more adaptable. 

This, along with the fact that 73 per cent of managers believe productivity would be boosted if hours were more flexible, makes a strong business case for flexible working too. 

This way of working could also help to reduce the skills gap in the UK; our research with the British Chambers of Commerce showed that 73 per cent of businesses are struggling to find the staff they need. Being flexible around work hours can prevent the best talent from slipping through the net. 

And with 78 per cent of the biggest UK companies reporting a gender pay gap in favour of men, offering flexibility has the potential to make a serious societal shift to begin to equalise the pay gap. The causes of the gap are complex, but one factor is a lack of flexibility in senior positions, making it particularly difficult for mothers who want to progress in their careers. 

Currently, some women choose to go part-time after becoming parents, but unfortunately others do so unwillingly because they’re not offered flexibility by their employer. 

Alongside this, fathers are more likely to have their flexible working requests turned down. Yet men and women are aligned in calling for more flexibility (85 per cent and 86 per cent respectively), highlighting that everyone is keen to see a workplace that reflects their needs.

Not only does it help with talent access and retention, but flexible working can boost company morale, which can lead to increased productivity.

So with 68 per cent of employees wanting more options when it comes to working flexibly, how can employers meet the demands of their workforce?

While Whately’s suggested bill is keeping flexible working on the agenda, and an opt-out approach would drive real change, it’s important to remember that some jobs lend themselves to flexible working more than others. 

For this to truly work, jobs need to be designed on a case-by-case basis. 

If done wrong, flexible working can have the opposite effect of that desired, leading to overworking and stress. To avoid this, the onus is on employers to work with their teams to look at capacity and figure out the best way of working flexibly that suits everyone. This could be job-sharing and working from home, through to flexitime and compressed hours.

With uncertainty surrounding the current economic climate, it’s time for companies to be progressive. By giving staff the freedom to get a healthy dose of vitamin D if they want to, you’ll ultimately get more out of them.