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Millions change jobs due to lack of flexibility

Hybrid work illustration, showing a woman dividing her work time between an office and home

Since the pandemic, flexible and hybrid working practices have become much more widespread. But many employers are still not flexible enough when it comes to flexible working.

Around 4 million people in the UK have changed careers because of a lack of flexibility at work -- almost 2 million of those in the last year -- according to new research from the CIPD.

The HR body argues that offering flexible working is key to retaining and attracting staff, addressing the current skills shortage and fostering inclusive workplaces.

Unmet demand

Ahead of new legislation that will give workers the right to request flexible working on day one of their employment, this is already the policy in a growing number of organisations (39% in 2023 vs 36% in 2021).

Two-thirds (65%) of employers provide some kind of flexibility to their front-line workers. However, the CIPD found that there is unmet demand from workers for more flexible hours arrangements, such as flexitime (17% currently use vs 29% would use if offered and possible in their role), term-time working (2% vs 8%), compressed hours (4% vs 18%), job-sharing (1% vs 4%) and annualised hours (3% vs 11%).

Overall, 71% of workers view a flexible working pattern as important to them when considering a new role, while 69% say the ability to work remotely is important.

Employees with a disability or long-term health condition are significantly more likely to say they have left a job in the last year (21%) or changed their career/profession (32%) due to a lack of flexible working.

Among employers, two-fifths (40%) have seen an increase in flexible working requests and a growing number (66% vs 56% in 2021) believe it's important to offer flexible working as an option when advertising roles.

Gen Zs and Millennials

Separate research from Deloitte highlights the importance of remote and hybrid working arrangements for younger employees.

More than seven in ten UK Gen Zs (77%) and Millennials (71%) said they would consider looking for a new job if their employer asked them to go into their workplace full-time.

"Younger workers expect to be able to flex their work to accommodate their personal life," said Kate Sweeney, partner and human capital lead at Deloitte. "Employers who recognise this desire for choice and support this are more likely to attract, retain and motivate the best talent from these two generations."

'Normalise the conversation'

Flexible working could also help employers tackle skills shortages, according to Claire McCartney, senior resourcing and inclusion adviser at the CIPD.

"Many organisations are facing the dual challenges of skills shortages and talent retention issues, particularly in sectors such as healthcare, education and hospitality," McCartney explained. "Our latest research reinforces that offering flexible working can go a long way towards tackling these problems, even in roles that are traditionally seen as non-flexible.

"There's a variety of flexible working practices organisations can offer for most roles, including flexitime, compressed hours, hybrid working, job-sharing and term-time working. By outlining flexible working options in job advertisements, employers can also open up recruitment to wider talent pools and create fairer and more inclusive workplaces. This transparency supports workers to ask for flexibility and helps to normalise the conversation for all groups."

How to adopt flexible and hybrid working

The CIPD report sets out recommendations for employers to adopt flexible and hybrid working, including:

  • Implement internal policies that allow employees to request flexible working from day one of employment and, wherever possible, state in job adverts that jobs can be done flexibly.
  • Raise awareness of different forms of flexible working and explore how they can be effective in roles that have traditionally been seen as non-flexible.
  • Provide training and support to managers on how to manage flexible and hybrid teams effectively.
  • Develop an action plan to ensure that hybrid working supports inclusion and embed inclusion in every aspect of hybrid working.
  • Consult and collaborate with employees when designing hybrid working practices.

Posted by Fidelius on May 30th 2023

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