Here are the facts about flex that every business needs to know.
In the last year or so, it’s become increasingly clear that flexibility is for everyone. A recent report by Timewise revealed that 87% of UK full-timers either work flexibly already, or wish they could. And in a 2017 survey into 8,000 qualified accountants, ‘flexibility and greater work-life balance’ came out as the biggest motivation when considering a new role.
Yet while it’s easy to see why employees might value the ability to work flexibly, what’s often overlooked is the value that it offers to employers. In reality, the business case for flexibility is incredibly strong, particularly when it comes to attracting people back into the workplace. As a result, those that fail to embrace it are likely to get left behind.
Here’s a summary of why being a flexible employer makes sound business sense.
A wider talent pool to recruit from
As well as highlighting the overall number of full-time workers who value flexibility, Timewise’s research also showed that flexibility was similarly important for men and women, and for different age groups (with 72% of baby boomers, 88% of Generation X and 92% of millennials preferring this way of working).
With flexibility being such a high priority for pretty much everyone, offering it at the point of hire gives employers a larger, more diverse pool of talent to choose from, and so helps them develop a more inclusive workforce.
An advantage over the competition
Although 93% of job hunters who aren’t currently working would prefer a part-time or flexible role, fewer than 1 in 10 jobs paying more than £20,000 FTE are advertised as having flexible working options. With such a gap between supply and demand, candidates who can pick and choose are more likely to choose employers who offer flexibility to them.
Offering flexible working - and being prepared to say so up front - can therefore help employers get to the top of talented candidates’ lists.
Improved retention and motivation
Not only does flexible working help a business attract great people, it also helps keep hold of them. In a survey by the CIPD, 75% of employers said that flexible working has a positive effect on retention, and 73% said it improves motivation.
In the accountancy industry, in which training and development require a substantial investment of time and money, this could have a serious impact on the bottom line.
Skills optimisation, diversity and the gender pay gap
Flexible working is most effective when it is built in to all levels of an organisation. For example, making flexibility available within senior and board-level roles creates a pathway for progression that makes the most of flexible employees’ skills and experience – and encourages them to stay.
It’s also likely to increase the number of senior women within the organisation, which will improve the diversity of its workforce and help close its gender pay gap.
There’s a lingering perception that remote workers don’t work as hard as office-based ones; but in fact, the opposite is true.
A survey by BT found that the productivity of its flexible workers increased by up to 30%, and that they took 20% fewer sick days. And in a study of flexible workers by Cranfield University, 97% of managers said that the quantity of work improved or stayed the same, and 93% said the quality of the work improved or stayed the same.
Whilst all the above factors have an impact on the bottom line, flexibility also has a direct effect on the costs of running a business. Allowing some or all of their staff to work remotely, for example, can reduce a business’ office footprint and environmental impact, leading to substantial cost savings.
To put some numbers behind this, Camden Council are using flexible working as a significant part of a strategy to reduce their accommodation by 40%, which they believe will save £5m a year. And on a larger scale, the BT survey also stated that reducing their physical office space through flexibility has yielded global savings of £100m a year.
It’s clear, then, that businesses stand to benefit just as much as their employees from embracing flexible working. And whilst these benefits will be felt across the whole organisation, for the accountants among us, it comes down to a simple, mathematical question. As the world becomes more flexible focused, can we afford not to?