Author:  Loretta Outhwaite.

“creating a workplace culture where people are judged by their work not the hours they work”

If you google ‘flexible working’ you’ll get pages of legislative and administrative advice from the government, unions and lawyers.  Evidence perhaps, that flexible working is seen as a problem to overcome, rather than as the key to unlocking the conundrum faced by UK employers – a sustainable, skilled, and productive workforce.

Flexible working is defined as a way of working that suits employees’ needs, for example:  part-time, flexi-time, compressed hours, job share, term-time working, career breaks and working from home.

Since 30 June 2014, under UK Law any employee who has worked a minimum of 26 weeks is entitled to make one request to their employer per annum to work flexibly.

There is a compelling case for flexible working.

Most UK workers want to work flexibly.  According to a research study Flexible Working: A Talent Imperative published in September 2017 by Timewise in collaboration with EY, 63% already do.

Of those working full-time, 25% would prefer to work part-time. 93% of those currently not working are seeking a part-time or flexible-time role.

The figures are not surprising, given that the benefits of working flexibly reported by employees already doing so include:  more control over work-life balance; more leisure time and the ability to carry out their caring duties.

Employers offering flexible working believe that it can: increase productivity, lower absenteeism and turnover, improve recruitment and reduce the carbon footprint/release cash through less travel.

Whilst the statistics demonstrate that progress has been made towards flexible working, research suggests that for it to deliver the expected benefits, employers need to improve the way it is being done.

Building on their earlier research study, in May 2018 Timewise in collaboration with Deloitte, published A Manifesto for Change:  A Modern Workplace for a Flexible Workforce.  It highlights that 30% of those working flexibly feel they are regarded with less status and importance and that 25% believe they have less access to opportunities and are over-looked for promotion.

Of the respondents, 70% feel this could be achieved by their employer taking an active rather than passive approach to flexible working policy. For example, by creating a work-place culture where people are judged by their work not the hours they work and where managers truly support and enable work-life balance for their teams.

Time is running out.  The demand for skilled workers is already outstripping supply.

Organisational success relies on having a sustainable, skilled, and productive workforce – core benefits of flexible working.

Lets make 2019 the year in which we put flexible working at the top of our agenda, making it the rule, rather than the exception.   To see it and implement it as a solution rather than a problem.

It will require creativity, courage and compromise.

It is time to bend.

You can contact the author here or on Twitter @l_outhwaite

Loretta is a financial and management consultant/HFMA Academy tutor/@nhsff #valuemaker and leading the new IHM group on the Isle of Wight.  Passionate about healthcare, creating and delivering value and life-long learning.