The myth of flexible working only being for women with children, or a way to accommodate employees with parental responsibilities has largely been dispelled. Employees across the board are pulling their employers towards flexible working:
- 70% of millennials are now working flexibly [PWC: Reshaping The Workplace]
- 92% place flexibility as a top priority [UKCES: The Future Of Work]
- 70% of all UK professionals are predicted to be working flexibly by 2020 [Lancaster University: A Winning Formula For Good Work]
Why should firms take the flexible option beyond the obvious pressure to do so? Because it sets your business up to succeed for the future by enabling you to hire and retain the best talent who value freedom, and perform at their best when they are given the room to do so. Adoption of flexible working fosters an environment of trust, and forces proper communication in a business; both of which can be found in spades in successful organisations. Google hires and retains some of the world’s top talent and whilst most work extremely hard, freedom and flexibility is placed at the heart of that organisation leading to 86% job satisfaction. The trend isn’t reserved for corporates with big CSR budgets, high-performing start-ups such as Tide Bank, Hopster, SnatchHQ and Whitehat need people full-time, but they allow for customised/flexible schedules in order to staff their companies with the best people.
A common fear we hear, is that flexible working could open the door internally and externally, to poor work ethics which cannot be monitored, and unrest in a workforce which up until that point was happy and productive. This is the opposite of the trust and open communication discussed earlier. Has trust actually broken down? Or was it ever built in the first place? ‘Management’ is interpreted as formulaic project management of humans completing tasks and not about coaching talented people to be accountable for their own work.
It is symptomatic of wider problems rooted in trust and communication if flexible working leads to this outcome. Reverting back to a 9-5 office based environment may provide a temporary band aid but it really is temporary, because the best talent will soon move onto environments that value trust, open communication, and freedom.