Today’s complex working landscape presents businesses with the challenge of meeting the demands of people with very different values, expectations and needs. Yet, they all seem to share a desire for flexible working.
It’s little wonder, then, that the flexible working movement has gained such momentum in the last decade. Employers have recognised that the traditional workplace is no longer fit for purpose. But we’re yet to reach a point where flexible working is ‘the norm’, even four years on from the introduction of laws by the UK government which gave everyone the legal right to request flexible working.
To use the ‘right to request’ or not
People are still unsure whether or not to use their right to request flexible working, for fear it could be perceived as a sign that they are less than dedicated to their job. In a study conducted by social media training experts Digital Mums last year, more than half (51%) of UK employees believed that asking for flexible working hours would be viewed negatively by their employer and a further 42% thought it would have a negative impact on their career.
Millennials, who are one of the key drivers of the movement, were particularly wary of not wanting to upset their employer, with two-fifths (40%) saying they’d be too nervous or worried to ask for flexible working hours, despite eight in ten (77%) wanting this way of working.
Those fears might very well be legitimate. According to a new joint report from flexible working experts Timewise and consultants Deloitte, more than 30% of workers who opt for flexible hours feel they have less status and importance as a result. A quarter of the 2,000 people surveyed also thought they had missed professional opportunities because of this.
For freelancers and contractors, there aren’t the same lingering fears, although they might have some concerns about whether working remotely could impact on the relationship with the client, if there is an expectation to be on site every day.
Remove the need to request
As we revealed in our previous blog on the pros and cons of flexible working, however, any concerns employers might have about what flexible working could do for business are often shown to be ill-founded.
Ask anybody who works flexibly whether they work harder and more productively now than they did when they were in a more structured setting and the answer would be unequivocally ‘yes’. Flexible workers often say they feel like they owe it to their company to go beyond the call of duty every day. While that brings up another issue entirely around work/life balance – another main driver of the movement – it goes to show how much staff value flexible working.
In a recent piece of research by SmallBusinessPrices.co.uk, more than a quarter (28%) of respondents said they value additional holiday days, sabbaticals and flexible working hours as employee benefits, over receiving a pay rise.
By promoting flexible working – rather than making employees request it – employers could find themselves with a line of new talent at the door, while holding onto the existing talent they already have in the building.
It could even help end gender discrimination in the workplace. According to the Timewise/Deloitte report, one of the biggest barriers to gender equality and pay parity is employers’ continued refusal to accept non-traditional working practices.
Timewise chief executive Karen Mattison stresses that the family structure in which one person stayed at home and another went out to work is “no longer the case for the majority of UK households” and employers need to react by changing their flexible working practices.
With the technology available today to facilitate flexible working, it’s never been a better time for individuals to dictate how long, where and when they work. More and more people are taking the plunge and ‘going it alone’ as either a contractor or a freelancer.
Of course, with Intouch Accounting by your side, you’re never alone. We are here to support you by answering any questions you may have, from assessing whether it’s the right time for you to contract or freelance, to helping you set up a Limited Company.
This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.