Forget the 9 to 5, Flexible Working is the New Normal in UK Offices

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New research by the Institute of Leadership & Management reveals, flexible working is now offered by almost all UK organisations.

We were pleased to see over nine out of 10 organisations offer some form of flexible working.

Flexible working is now offered by almost all (94%) UK organisations, according to research published today by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM). The report, Flexible working: Goodbye nine to five, found half of managers (50%) believe flexible working is now standard practice where they work.

In the ILM survey of over 1,000 managers, nearly three quarters (73%) said their organisation was supportive of flexible working and 62% said they had senior managers acting as role models for working flexibly. The majority of managers (82%) also noted the business benefits that flexible working brought to the company.

Two thirds (65%) said flexible working increased commitment to the organisation, with four fifths (78%) stating it helped retain staff. And as we move towards a 24/7 consumer culture where clients and customers increasingly expect long hours availability and responsiveness, 62% said flexible working meant the organisation was better able to respond to these needs.    

The research also showed that men are just as likely as women to work flexibly, with 88% of male respondents currently working flexibly compared to 90% of women.

Despite its prevalence, there were still some negative attitudes towards flexible working. ILM’s report found that over a fifth (22%) of respondents believe that working flexibly would be ‘career limiting’. In addition, almost a third (31%) had heard colleagues make derogatory comments about those working flexibly.

A third (32%) of managers not working flexibly said they would like to, but are afraid to ask due to the culture in their organisation and a further quarter (27%) reported that it was not seen as appropriate for managers.

Charles Elvin, chief executive of the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM), said: “We were pleased to see just how widespread flexible working has become, with over nine out of 10 organisations offering it in some form.

“Work used to be the place you turned up to – now, it’s increasingly something you can do anywhere, at any time. This is because more and more employers are recognising that a flexible approach to how, where and when their employees work offers real business benefits, including increased staff engagement, reduced overheads and the ability to meet their customer needs more fully.

“Our research did identify a number of residual cultural barriers, which are preventing some organisations from fully embracing the advantages of flexible working. Negative attitudes towards flexible workers are often prompted by a sense of unfairness and poor communication from senior management on policy. Openness and honesty about flexible working policies can alleviate worries and uncertainty, help to address negativity and highlight the opportunities and advantages to all staff.”

Other findings include:

  • CEOs and senior managers are more likely to work flexibly – 77% of CEOs and 54% of senior managers are currently working flexibly, compared to just 37% of first line managers
  • Different types of flexible working are proving popular – flexible hours (77%) was the most prevalent type of formal flexible working, followed by part-time working (75%), off-site working (62%) and job sharing (47%).

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Smita Chakma
Institute of Leadership and Management
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