Have you considered Flexible Working?

We know that all employees who have worked for their employer for more than 26 weeks are entitled to make a request for flexible working. However a recent CBI report found that just one in 10 job listings mention flexible working. As working parents recover from the long negotiations about organising childcare for the summer holidays, the Guardian called on Tom Neil, a guidance writer for ACAS, for advice. His comment was that “More work needs to be done on understanding the benefits that flexible working can bring to an organisation.”  Read more about the benefits to the organisation and individual.

Benefits of Flexible Working

Neil explains that for employees, the benefits of flexible working are often focused on improving their work-life balance, as well as looking after their health and wellbeing. Mothers in particular agonise over working/not working/when to work. This often receives more attention that it should. For example, a major study by Harvard University caused much discussion when said that while working mothers “often internalise social messages of impending doom for their children,” the reality is that their sons and daughters appear to thrive, with daughters benefiting most from the positive role model of a mother with a career.

Harvard Business School professor Kathleen McGinn, lead author of the study, noted that the effect on daughters’ careers of mothers working was particularly marked in the UK and US, where public attitudes to career equality could be more of a barrier than in some European countries such as Finland and Denmark.

Flexible Arrangements are also good for employers

However as Tom Neil points out, flexible arrangements are also good for employers: “Research from the CIPD has shown that implementing flexible working practices can improve staff engagement and motivation. It can also help to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and enhance employee engagement and loyalty.” Neil also points out that “It can greatly increase the pool of applicants for vacant roles, while helping to retain the experienced and skilled staff already there.”

Natalie Pancheri, HR Policy Adviser at the London School of Economics (LSE) agrees. “The benefits of flexible working are well established, from increased employee engagement to better performance,” she says.  “We also know from research that staff can often value flexibility over other more traditional forms like remuneration, so there’s a positive financial implication for organisations to consider too.”

Flexible Working is beneficial to all staff

While flexible working has historically been seen as a female or parental issue, Pancheri explains, “The benefits can and should apply to all staff whether you are disabled, a carer or simply seeking a better work-life balance. Embedding a culture of flexibility begins to chip away at the types of issues that can prevent women from advancing their careers, as well as making sure that this becomes the norm rather than ‘special treatment’ that may be resented by others.”

The researchers of the Harvard report back this up by concluding: “We hope the findings from our research will promote respect for the spectrum of choices women and men make at home and at work. Whether moms or dads stay at home or are employed, part-time or full-time, children benefit from exposure to role models offering a wide set of alternatives.”

 Margaret Cheng

Senior Consultant

Margaret Martin Associates Ltd

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