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Why flexible working could work for you and your new employer

by Heat Recruitment

It only takes a glance at the motorway on a Monday morning to see that the 9-5 structure still reigns supreme in the UK.

However, as digital technology evolves to accommodate our busy schedules, the chains that bind us to our desks for eight hours a day are starting to wear thin. According to a study by Lancaster University, flexible working is predicted to be the predominant way of working for 70% of businesses by 2020. Within many organisations, culture shift is already taking place – and rightly so. After all, if employers value quality over quantity in the work of their staff, why should employees be bound to the 9-5 life?

Thanks to the digital revolution and the influx of technology-adept Millennials to the workplace, the traditional construct of the working day is finally being called into question – and it’s about time.

The future is flexi

For too long, flexible working has been treated as a taboo, a perkthat should only be requested by those with an urgent need. Fortunately, research into the productivity of remote and flexible working is slowly helping to influence employers; they are finally beginning to realise that 9-5 may not be the most suitable hours for all staff.

Yet, when it comes to negotiating flexible working into an employment contract, many of us still feel apprehensive about making a request. In asking to work from home once a week or take time off in lieu, we feel we are presenting ourselves as uncommitted; we fear that we will seem more dedicated to our personal lives than our professional careers. Unfortunately, this is often to the detriment of our work-life balance, our job satisfaction and our overall wellbeing.

Life happens

Historically, flexible working hours have been synonymous with new mothers. As they settle in to their new life with their child post-maternity leave, employers are happy to let them fit their work commitments around their home-life. However, parenthood isn’t the only personal commitment that can disrupt the 9-5 cycle. The underlying truth is that for many employees, work simply no longer fits into the official working hours.

Perhaps we care for an elderly or disabled relative; maybe we have dogs that need walking. Some of us may have an interest in taking up a personal development course outside of work that won’t be compatible with the traditional working hours. Life happens, but that doesn’t mean we must choose one or the other. Negotiating flexible working into your employment contract should be a priority – not because work comes second, but because achieving a good balance is essential to our mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

The business case for flexible working

For the most part, would-be employees set to start in a new role refrain from requesting flexi-work for fear that it will make them seem unproductive. In fact, this belief is based on the misconception that remote working lowers motivation, efficiency and energy levels. If this were the case, an employer would have every right to reject requests for flexible working on the premise that it would be bad for business.

However, according to a recent study from HSBC, it’s quite the opposite. Findings from their report reveal that nine in ten employees (89%) consider flexible working to be the biggest motivator to their productivity levels within the workplace – more so than financial incentives  (77%). Further to this, 81% of workers said the opportunity to work remotely helps them to improve their productivity, establishing a clear correlation between flexible working cultures and boosts in business productivity.

That said, productivity isn’t always predictable. Some of us are early birds, some of us are night owls and in truth, some of us are both. We may come to work at 9am feeling like we’re ready to rock one day and arrive at the office the next day unable to concentrate or contribute anything of value.

Negotiating flexible working into your contract allows you to focus on your projects when you feel like you’re at your peak. Rather than watching the clock tick painfully away simply because “you’re at work”, flexible working encourages employees to truly switch off during their down-time and make the most of those spikes in productivity.

by Hollie Thomas