A little flexibility is definitely a good thing. However, currently flexible working is almost seen as a one-size-fits-all solution to addressing employees’ needs and it seems perhaps a blanket adoption of flexible contracts is masking workers’ real priorities. According to a survey by specialist HR recruiter Ortus HR, the majority of professionals in the UK believe that flexible working will become the most common employment model – despite the fact that few actually want it.
The research of 3,000 professionals revealed that nine in ten of those spoken to felt that flexible working was set to become the norm but only a little over one in ten actually indicated it was a priority. In a list of their highest priorities, professionals ranked flexible hours as less important than a company mobile and insurance, indicated as essentials by 18% and 16% of employees respectively. However there was a clear difference in priorities between the sexes – 16% of women felt flexibility was a deal breaker compared to just 9% of men. Male respondents were likely to prioritise a bonus higher than women, with more than a quarter seeing it as essential compared to just a fifth of their female counterparts.
Interestingly, there also seems to be some mixed messages about how many employees have access to flexible hours. Government statistics have indicated that 91% of employers offer flexibility in their contracts whereas the survey revealed that only a third of respondents said that it was something their company currently offered. Overall, respondents had mixed feelings about the current push for flexible working, with more than half feeling that it was motivated by business concerns such as efficiency and productivity in contrast to just 12% that thought it would be used to help employees manage the number of hours they work.
It can’t be denied that flexible working is a positive thing for those that need it. But clearly this research demonstrates that even though flexible contracts are the treatment du jour, it can’t be relied on as a panacea to treat all workplace ills.