HR · 19 September 2017

Nine in ten UK workers now looking beyond the nine-to-five

Almost two-thirds of full-time UK employees work flexibly in some way
Almost two-thirds of full-time UK employees work flexibly in some way

Almost nine in ten full-time UK workers favour flexible working arrangements over the traditional nine-to-five, according to new research, and experts have warned employers to respond to changing expectations of working life or face missing out on talent.

In a study of over 3,000 adults for its “Flexible Working: A Talent Imperative” report, recruitment platform Timewise found that despite growing demand for flexible working hours, such as different shift patterns and working from home, just one in ten “quality jobs” – paying at least £20,000 per annum – offered any change from typical hours.

The study was compiled using data from full-time, permanent employees, excluding those working on zero-hours contracts or those with irregular shifts in the gig economy.

Of the full-time workforce, almost two-thirds already worked flexibly in some way. Of the remainder, a clear majority would prefer new contractual arrangements.

Significant generational differences were also proved by the research. Some 92 per cent of 18 to 34 year olds favoured flexible working over the nine-to-five, a figure which dropped to 72 per cent of those aged over 55 years old.

Further highlighting the rapidly changing perception of how jobs should fit in with lifestyles, one in four full-time workers admitted they would even work part-time for part-time wags, if it didn’t affect their hourly rate or career progression.

The report was commissioned to expose the so-called “mum myth”, seen to promote the idea that flexible working is primarily for mothers and those with parenting responsibilities.

Instead, it revealed a number of factors driving the culture change towards flexibility. Across all age groups, an average 57 per cent said they wanted greater control over their work/life balance.

For over a third of 35 to 54-year olds, reducing commuting times was the most important issue.

Curiously, greater time for leisure and study was the most important factor for the youngest workers, and for those over 55 years old.

Commenting on the study, Karen Mattison, Timewise joint CEO, said the findings disputed flexible working as a “women’s issue”, and warned employers to meet the demands of workers or risk losing talent from all corners of the workforce.

“Today’s new research shows once and for all that flexible working is a preferred way of working for both men and women at all stages of their working lives,” she said.

“Today’s workforce not only want it, but they expect it. It’s time for businesses to get smarter and use flexibility as a tool to attract and keep the best people. Those who lag behind in adapting how they hire, will risk losing out on millions of skilled workers.”

Lynn Rattigan, Chief Operating Officer at EY UK & Ireland, which supported the report, said the findings proved the “clear demand” for flexibility among employees.

“People of all ages want it and need it throughout their life and career,” she added.

“What’s more, the working world is being transformed by advances in technology with the rise of the gig economy and a flexible working policy is no longer enough. Smart companies are already adapting by hiring flexibly, designing roles and working patterns creatively, and using more contingent workers – overall, establishing an agile working workforce and culture fit for the future.”

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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