Can flexible working improve engagement?

Shunning the 9-5 can create competitive advantage

Victoria December 16, 2020
Reading time: 3 minutes

The traditional working week of 9-5, 5 days a week seems to be hard wired into our society. Most workers build their days, weeks and years around this working pattern. But for many people, it just doesn't align with their life outside of work.

Many are juggling a near impossible balance of work and life outside of work, which makes it incredible difficult to be fully engaged in their job. 

Caring responsibilities play a large part in this juggling act:

  • 5 million people in the UK are juggling caring responsibilities with work - that's 1 in 7 of the workforce.
  • Almost 3 in 10 mothers (28.5%) with a child aged 14 years and under said they had reduced their working hours due childcare reasons.
  • The proportion of parents who faced an obstacle fulfilling responsibilities decreased as the age of the child increased; from 34.9% of parents whose youngest child was aged between 0 and 4 years to 20.4% of parents with a child aged 11 to 14 years.

(https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/articles/familiesandthelabourmarketengland/2019)

Reviewing mental health statistics makes it really clear where employees are struggling and where the engagement gaps may be. A recent Mental Health Foundation survey found:

  • One third of respondents feel unhappy or very unhappy about the time they devote to work
  • More than 40% of employees are neglecting other aspects of their life because of work, which may increase their vulnerability to mental health problems 
  • When working long hours more than a quarter of employees feel depressed (27%), one third feel anxious (34%), and more than half feel irritable (58%)
  • The more hours you spend at work, the more hours outside of work you are likely to spend thinking or worrying about it
  • As a person's weekly hours increase, so do their feelings of unhappiness
  • Many more women report unhappiness than men (42% of women compared with 29% of men), which is probably a consequence of competing life roles and more pressure to 'juggle'
  • Nearly two thirds of employees have experienced a negative effect on their personal life, including lack of personal development, physical and mental health problems, and poor relationships and poor home life.

These findings make for pretty depressing reading. So what can you do as a business to change things for the better?

If your business can accommodate it, moving away from the traditional working week and offering more flexible ways of working can offer solutions to the challenges above. In return, you'll build long lasting employee engagement and create competitive advantage.

Offering flexible working options opens up new, often more diverse talent pools too as well as giving employees a greater reason to stay in your business.

If your business can accommodate it, we recommend that you build flexible working into your processes when creating or replacing roles. Try and consider;

  • Can this role be part time?
  • Can this role be a job share?
  • Does this role need to be 9-5?
  • Does this job need to be 5 days per week?
  • Can it be compressed hours?
  • Can it be term time only?
  • Can it be remote?

The principals and the benefits of a flexible working approach, reach across all of the 4 pillars of the Space HR engagement model. If you'd like to talk some more about our model, approach and how flexible working could offer you competitive advantage, you can email our founder: Victoria@spacehr.co.uk 

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