The rising number of people leaving the workforce on account of poor health highlight the urgent need for businesses to adapt their work practices to nurture the happiness and productivity of their workforce to stem the alarming increases we are seeing with economic inactivity. One solution to address this issue is the implementation of flexible working to meet the diverse needs of employees including the older worker. Not only does flexible working help retain and attract talent, but it also contributes to the overall wellbeing of the workforce.
The employee exodus
A recent report by the CIPD on employee and employer perspectives towards flexible and hybrid working arrangements finds that approximately 4 million people have changed careers due to a lack of flexibility at work, while an estimated 2 million have left a job in the last year for the same reason.
These findings highlight that the availability of flexible working options is a deal breaker for many employees and is a strong determinant in remaining at a company or organisation. In recent years, the demand for flexibility in work schedules has grown as individuals have become accustomed to prioritising their personal lives alongside professional commitments.
It is important that businesses recognise the high value the workforce places on flexibility, and proactively implements flexible arrangements to attract and retain employees. Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the desire for flexible working, it is evident that this will continue to remain a key requirement for large swathes of the workforce.
Inclusivity through flexibility
For many individuals, flexible working is not merely a preference but a necessity. It has opened new career prospects for those with disabilities or health conditions, enabling them to adapt their work schedules to accommodate their specific needs.
If flexible working is not available, employees, particularly those with long-term health conditions or disabilities may feel stigmatised and excluded from the workplace. These negative feelings often lead to individuals being forced to stop working or switch career paths and ultimately prevent businesses from accessing the widest and most diverse talent pool available to them. It also acts as a barrier to equal opportunities.
It is therefore concerning that the report highlights how employees with disabilities or long-term health conditions are considerably more likely to leave a job (21%) or switch careers (32%) due to the lack of flexible working opportunities. The absence of flexible working options can render them unable to work altogether.
To avoid this, businesses should consider and prioritise the implementation of flexible working arrangements. By doing so, they will not only attract and retain talent but also enhance the overall wellbeing of their workforce. Embracing flexibility does not just build a more inclusive and healthier workforce, it promotes increased productivity, diverse perspectives and is ultimately a smart decision for a business.
It is crucial therefore to ensure that everyone, regardless of their circumstances, can fully participate in the workforce, and flexible working presents a simple yet powerful solution to achieving this goal. Diversity in the workforce is not just a benefit for those now able to access jobs through flexible working, but also for businesses to provide the opportunity for varying perspectives, better decision making and ultimately increased productivity.
Designing and implementing flexible working strategies that are inclusive and embrace employees at all life stages and recognises financial, health and career aspirations will require businesses to adapt their policies to match expectations. The payoff could be significant.