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Flexible working seems to be talked about more and more, with some high profile companies scrambling to offer it.

Current law says that employees are entitled to make a “statutory application” to their boss to make their working hours more flexible. This doesn’t mean the company has to grant it but they must consider it.

According to Aviva’s Working Lives report, those aged 35-49 are the least likely to ask for flexible working. This is despite being more likely to have busier lives, juggling family and work commitments. 24% said that they avoided talking about it because the feared they would be rejected.

Director of SMEs insurance at Aviva UK, Gareth Hemming said: “The fact that our research suggests some employees are too afraid to ask for flexible working options suggests there is still some work to be done to create an open culture where employees can feel able to have conversations with their employers.”

People starting to ask

However, people are getting better at talking about it. 54% of employees say that they’ve initiated a conversation about flexible working. Of these, most have had their requests accepted (79%).

64% of private sector businesses say that they already offer flexible working opportunities and this is likely to rise.

“Flexible working patterns are becoming increasingly common and businesses are predicting this trend will grow over the next five years. Indeed many businesses have already adapted their operations – and a number have said they are considering it for the future as they recognise the benefits to both employer and employee.

“Technological innovation is presenting new ways for businesses to serve their customers and support growth objectives. It also offers the potential for businesses to evolve how they interact with customers outside of core working hours,” Hemming said.

The benefits of flexible working

Aviva’s Working Lives report looks at attitudes and experiences of employers and workers. It examines issues that can affect the nature of the workplace. The report suggests that both employers and employees can benefit from flexible working.

65% of employers say they think that the private sector workforce will become more flexible over the next few years. 51% of private sector employees say that they already work flexibly, some regularly or occasionally.

The report from Aviva has revealed that 51% of businesses who offer flexible working reported an increase in productivity. 68% said that they think it makes employees happier.

Offering flexible working also helps staff retention and is an appealing point during recruitment. 63% of employees said that they’d be more likely to stay at a company that offers it. 36% would consider flexible working to be a deal breaker if they were looking for a new job.

Of the companies that currently offer it, 37% said that increased happiness for workers is one of the top outcomes. 34% said that another benefit was being able to manage responsibilities outside of work.

Hemming added: “Such change means businesses may need to rethink the way their employees work and should consider the benefits flexible working could bring in meeting business goals. It can also support employees looking to manage their work-life balance better as they juggle work with busy lives, looking after family young and old, managing health or even wanting more time to pursue other interests.

“Whilst flexible working may not be a practical option for all businesses they may still be able to introduce some degrees of flexibility – even on an ad hoc basis that may be beneficial.”

 

Do you offer flexible working opportunities at your business? If not, what are your reasons? Please share your thoughts.

About The Author

Kara Copple

An experienced business and finance writer, sometimes moonlighting as a fiction writer and blogger.

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