Why calls for flexible working are growing louder

The importance of flexible working for maternity returners can’t be stressed too often in my view.

At my recent speech at the House of Commons, I used Confidence to Return case studies to demonstrate the value of a flexible approach, for the employer as well as the mum.

And the same message could be heard loud and clear from various industries at #FlexibleWorking: The Big Conversation, a Mummyjobs.co.uk event I’ve attended since.

Amy-Lou Osborn, recruitment manager at Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) was first up and began by dismissing the idea that flexible meant ‘part-time’ for new mums.

That’s not the case at GBK, which has been flexible friendly since its start in 2001, says Amy-Lou.

She explained that as well as valuing their employees as people, GBK recognises that high staff turnover doesn’t help make money in the burger business.

They recognise the financial impact of recruiting and retaining new staff.

9-5 out of fashion

Speakers throughout the event stressed the need to consider flexible working for everyone, not just those with maternity and childcare needs.

Working 9 to 5 was a great title for a Dolly Parton song, but are those hours really the best for everyone?

People are seeking a different work / life balance for all sorts of reasons, such as the need to care for an older relative. And they say millennials are enthusiastic to work hours outside the traditional daily grind — though I’m sure some baby boomers, and Generation Xers, would embrace a change too.

‘We have reached out to local nurseries and schools in the areas to see if any parents would be interested in working for those hours on those days’

Creative recruitment

As Amy-Lou said: ‘We certainly have been getting creative with our recruitment.’

‘At our City sites, we struggle to find team members who want to work for just a couple of hours, say 12-2pm on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, as these are our busiest days. ‘

‘So, we have reached out to local nurseries and schools in the areas to see if any parents would be interested in working those for those hours on those days. Although this is early days for us, and we haven’t hired anyone just yet, as it’s all about building the relationships with the schools first.

‘We hope this angle will work, as the opportunity for someone to work with us will benefit both parties.’

‘War on talent’

Heather DeLand, executive creative director at international recruitment company, TMP Worldwide had some tough tales of mothers dropping out of the workforce and there being a ‘war on talent’.

‘set in binary gender roles right from the beginning’

Trapped by binary roles

She told her story of having a baby a 39, knowing that she wanted to maintain her career. And how she had an amazing man behind her who became the main carer while she was the main breadwinner.

She said we are, sadly, ‘set in binary gender roles right from the beginning’, yet ‘we’re all multidimensional people’. 

There should be no fixed roles in employment and it made me wonder why there still are, in 2018.

Brexit backlash

Heather also warned of the predicted worker shortage faced by the UK, thanks to a collision of changing demographics — and Brexit.

A recent review by employment consultant Mercer said:

  • more than 700,000 extra people will probably be needed to work in the health and social care sector over the coming few years
  • there will be an additional 2 million people aged 65 and over by 2025.

Creating attractive flexible opportunities could attract more people back into the workforce, particularly the care and hospitality sectors which are likely to face the biggest bump come Brexit.

Benefits of home working

She discussed how the traditional 9-5pm was not inclusive and set out the benefits to business by of employees working from home. These include:

  • paying for less desk space
  • more time earning fees
  • better engaged
  • longer service
  • achieved outcomes
  • positive effect on employee brand.

Home workers more productive?

She said a survey of office workers in 2016 revealed they spent 2 hours and 53 mins actually working in a typical 8-hour day. The rest of the time? Eating, talking, browsing the news … watching cats on Facebook.

So, business would be more productive if the focus was on the outcomes, rather than turning up and spending time.

Her take home message? ‘Societal change is the answer’

Final speaker Eleanor Willock from Mantis PR explained how her business was built on the benefits of flexible working. All 10 employees, including the 2 MDs work flexible hours, resulting in a tangible boost in productivity.

 At Confidence to Return we help make flexible working a success for maternity returners.

It’s great to hear the same message from female business leaders. We need to keep this #flexibleworking conversation growing, and make it louder.


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