81% of employees want flexible working, and employers would be wise to take note

28/03/13

Today’s workplace is far less rigid than the workplace of forty years ago - no longer defined by the traditional 9-5, and entirely unrestricted by geographical confines.

Employee expectations have also changed dramatically: people want more, expect more, and put a greater emphasis on balancing their personal needs with their professional aspirations.

In this new age of redefined priorities, work-life balance has been brought firmly into the spotlight, and employers who are keen to future-proof their business are being quick to capitalise on it. Thanks to conference calling and video conferencing, people no longer need to be in the same location to work as a team, and in recent years, this has led to a surge in demand for flexible working.

Owing to the unprecedented growth in new technologies, flexible working is now not only feasible, but increasingly popular - with 81% of employees wanting to escape the traditional 9-5 in favour of more flexible ways of working (be that flexible hours, remote working, or working from home).

In 2002, the right to request flexible working was introduced under the 2002 Employment Act. It’s hardly surprising then that 77% of workers believe they have a right to work from home - a figure that rises to 84% for Generation Y.

The trend for flexible working has also been heavily influenced by the increased presence of women in the workplace and changes to maternity and paternity laws. There are now more parents in the workplace than ever before, which means more people attempting to balance the demands of parenthood with a career.

And it’s not just maternity leave that employers need to cater for: according to research from our general staffing brand Office Angels, 53% of working fathers want to reduce their hours to spend more time with their children.

If employers choose to embrace the positives of flexible working, they stand a much better chance of retaining experienced, motivated, and committed workers - workers who, despite the demands of parenthood, remain keen to forge a successful career.

Of course many employers still perceive flexible working as the antithesis of productivity and hard work; but when handled correctly, it can be just the opposite - flexible working has actually been shown to increase productivity in many cases.

When workers feel like they’re trusted (and afforded perks outside the norm), they’re motivated to do well. They’re also and more likely to approach work with gusto if they feel like they’ve achieved a healthy balance between their personal and professional lives.

In an increasingly competitive global arena, employers are constantly searching for new ways to retain and engage their workers, but the modern day phenomenon of flexible working has actually handed employers the ideal attraction tool: instead of simply responding to requests for flexible, at home, or remote working, employers should capitalise on the trend by changing recruitment practices to actively promote it.

If employers are to remain relevant, competitive and engaging, they will need to address flexible working options to meet modern demands, or risk falling behind in an era of ever-evolving and fast-paced change.