HR · 14 April 2016

Flexible working is key for work-life balance – but many employers still aren’t offering it

flexible working
London commuters spend ten hours travelling to and from work each week

New research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has revealed that flexible working improves employees’ work-life balance – especially for the London commuters who spend the equivalent of one working day each week travelling to the office.

The study found that almost two-thirds of employees who work flexibly are satisfied with their work-life balance – compared to under half of those who don’t.

This is particularly pronounced for those living on the outskirts of London, where 20 per cent of workers cite commuting as one of the most stressful aspects of their life. The average journey time for this group is 56 minutes each way – which equates to almost ten hours spent travelling each week.

“Flexible workers are happier workers but there is still far too much focus on traditional nine-to-five work cultures and an ongoing challenge of businesses placing too much value on time spent at the desk and not enough on people’s actual outputs,” said head of CIPD London David D’Souza.

“Where Londoners are working flexibly, this is mostly restricted to part-time working or flexi-time unless they are a middle or senior manager. Rather than being the preserve of more senior managers, the opportunity to work flexibly in different ways needs to become the norm for many more employees. The nature of work is changing. We need real action on flexible working from the government, the new Mayor of London and from businesses,” he added.

Just under one-quarter of those workers who do work flexibly find it helps them reduce the time spent commuting – while almost three-in-ten cited it as a reason for staying with their current employer. Working from home on a regular basis is one of the most popular types of flexibility on offer – with 24 per cent of company owners giving staff this option.

The right to request flexible working – formally restricted to employees with dependents – was extended to all workers in 2014. The most recent research focusing on small firms, which was carried out by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) to coincide with the change in legislation, found that four in five small firms gave staff some sort of flexibility.

The CIPD research is the latest in a spate of surveys highlighting the benefits of non-traditional work patterns. A global survey carried out by Vodafone in February 2016 revealed that 83 per cent of those employers offering flexible options have seen productivity increase – while 60 per cent had seen this translate into higher profits.

Additional research published by the The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) in January 2016 revealed that more than one-third of UK freelancers think their business performance improved in the last three months due to more organisations adopting flexible working practices.

Looking for a more dramatic way to improve your employees’ work-life balance? Check out this idea.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics – as well as running a tutoring company.

Work and Wellbeing