• Nearly 9 million full time workers want to work flexibly, research suggests

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  • 19 Jun 2014
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Majority of jobseekers ‘nervous’ about consequences of making request

Nearly two in every five full time employees want to work part time or remotely right now, according to research from recruitment firm Timewise.

And 70 per cent of employees surveyed said they would like to work flexibly at some point in the future, but a third believe they would never be able to.

In a nationally representative survey of 1,161 UK workers  – equivalent to 8.7 million respondents, weighted according to the UK-wide picture – 42 per cent said: “I want to work flexibly right now.”

The two-part research, called A flexible future for Britain?’, combines a poll of more than a 1,000 workers in full time or part time employment and a study of 500 managers with hiring responsibilities for their teams.

It suggests would-be flexible workers looking for a new job face a “hidden market”, as senior leaders do not openly talk about alternative working solutions.

While 91 per cent of managers said they were willing to talk to candidates about flexi-time options during the recruitment process, only 25 per cent of vacancies advertised in the past year explicitly stated this.

This means jobseekers ‘feel nervous’ about raising the topic at interview, with 42 per cent fearing that it would ‘damage their chance of getting the job’.

Timewise co-founder, Karen Mattison, said today’s top talent wanted more choice on where and when they work and employers were missing a key advantage by not explicitly offering flexibility.

The survey showed that seven in 10 managers agreed that would-be flexible workers were an ‘under used as a pool of talent,’ but the majority (43 per cent) of advertised roles open to flexible working options were junior or entry level jobs.

Just 9 per cent of leadership roles and 14 per cent of directorship roles offered flexibility, with a quarter of managers stating “flexible working does not tend to be offered for roles with key responsibilities within my organisation”.

Lynn Rattigan, deputy chief operating officer in the UK and Ireland at EY, said the misconception that flexi-workers are ‘less ambitious’ was affecting employers’ approach to alternative working structures in the workplace.

“There is still a cultural challenge for many businesses around flexible working: to understand that reduced hours doesn’t ever mean less commitment,” she said.

“I have seen first-hand at EY how it can help attract and retain the best and brightest talent, lead to higher levels of client service and create competitive advantage.”

On the back of the research, Timewise is launching a call for nominations for its third annual ‘Power Part Time List’, supported by EY, designed to highlight 50 business leaders who successfully work flexibly.

“Cultural change inevitably takes time but the more role models we have, the easier it will become to unlock opportunities for both the talented people who need to work differently and the employers who would benefit from their skills,” Rattigan said.

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  • There can be advantages to allowing flexibility and put this in place without affecting business for a lot of workers. As employers we need to have an open mind on working hours after all it may not matter if the working day is 7 - 4 instead of 8 - 5 to avoid traffic or something similar, sometimes being flexible is something that needs discussing with groups of employees rather than individuals. However we also have to be open with employees as to the needs of the business with regard to any particular position and what can sensibly be adopted in different circumstances.