How flexible working can benefit your team and your business

Claire Campbell , CEO of Timewise

Claire originally joined Timewise in 2016 and helped grow the employer consultancy team. After working as Director of HR Consulting and Research at the Institute of Employment Studies, she rejoined Timewise in 2023 and was promoted to CEO.

April 2024 brings a welcome change to the legislation around flexible working.  For the first time, individuals can make a request for flexibility from their first day in a new job. Rather than having to wait for 26 continuous weeks in post.

Responsibility to set out 'how the flexibility will work' also shifts from employee to employer. There is more onus on employers to consider requests and offer solutions.

Timewise interviewed 4,000 people about the legislative changes and their expectations. The publicity around the new legislation is likely to bring an increase in requests. 1 in 2 (49%) felt they may use the right to request when going for a new job.

That's half of new hires wanting to talk about a working pattern that may be different to the one employers had in mind.

Many social businesses, like Timewise, have been campaigning for such changes for many years. Why? Because flexible working is a cornerstone of equality, diversity and inclusivity. It is the door that allows many people to work. It is good for business, and it's good for society.

People's working lives are longer than ever before, and there are multiple generations in the workplace.

Flexible working makes the difference between working, and not working for millions, including:

  • parents and carers 
  • people with long-term health conditions
  • older people

It is literally life changing.

At Timewise, we are firm believers that flexible working benefits the vast majority of workers, whatever their personal circumstances. This is because it allows them to make choices about their working week and feel trusted.

According to a recent poll of 1,580 LinkedIn users by People Management, 73% felt more productive working from home, and a third liked the choice around which days to come in on.

How flexible working can help businesses

It's clear why flexible working is popular with individuals – but how can it help employers?

The ultimate recruitment tool

Flexible working is the ultimate recruitment tool for talent attraction – ranking higher than salary as a key benefit in some surveys. 30% of vacancies posted online in the UK explicitly offer some kind of flexible working. Meaning, if you can talk about flexible working within your job ads, you put yourself ahead of 70% of the competition.

Flexible working supports wellbeing and inclusion

In 2023, researchers from Harvard and Penn State universities found that flexible working reduces someone's risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Flexible working is also believed to help staff stay clear of burnout and protect their mental health. Choice and control over working patterns play a big part in this.

Furthermore, flexible working helps employers to build more diverse and inclusive workforces. For example, when insurer Zurich identified a lack of applications from women for senior roles, it launched a flexible working initiative. This led to a 66% boost in applications, with 1 in 4 of the new hires choosing to work part time.

Flexible working is also important to people with additional responsibilities or needs. The University of Lancaster carried out a study which focused on how remote working can support employees with a disability or long-term health condition. 70% of disabled workers said that if they were not allowed to work remotely, it would negatively impact their health.

Finally, a survey of mothers last year suggested that, while 98% of women want to return to work after maternity leave, only 13% think it is viable on a full-time basis.

It's easier to offer flexible working than you might think

Flexible working is possible in almost every role, whether it be on:

  • hours 
  • location 
  • number of hours worked

It may initially seem that some roles are hard to make flexible. However, there are always options available, including:

  • regular or occasional home working
  • working across different sites and offices
  • compressed hours 
  • late starts and early finishes
  • team based shift rotas 
  • part-time hours 
  • fewer or shorter shifts
  • job sharing
  • taking back time after long days

For example, on the shop floor, there may not be much flexibility about where someone works. However you could think about whether:

  • you can offer options on shift times
  • you can offer a job share with another person
  • you could give staff more say in the roster and the shifts they work
  • they can work less than full time, if they choose to

The key to success is to identify what you can offer. Then, communicate the flexible working you'll offer both internally and when recruiting, and how you'll support your managers to make it work.

Making sure you're ready for the new legislation

Timewise has created a simple checklist for HR, Talent and Inclusion teams. For more practical ideas and guidance, please get in touch with us at Timewise – the experts on making flexible working work for you.

Claire will be speaking at the upcoming Acas conference on flexible working.