Cause for optimism as flex becomes norm

5488484187_56c669b25a_oFlexible working has become an accepted and normal way of doing business, according to panellists at last week’s Work and Family Show.

In a session on flexible working, chief executive of charity Working Families Sarah Jackson said flexibility had gained a lot of ground since the charity was founded. “Flexibility has mainstreamed over the last 20 years. Almost everybody thinks of [it] as a normal way of working,” she said.

Jackson added that recent Working Families research showed men under the age of 35 were increasingly keen to share childcare and resentful of employers who did not allow them the flexibility to do so.

Sky director of business HR Jo Lewis agreed that there is a sea change in flexible working requests: “We do have increasing numbers of men looking for flexibility – it’s a very recent phenomenon.” She added that increasingly employees are requesting flexible working schedules for reasons other than family and caring. “We have a high number of people competing in sport at a high level,” she said.

However, Lewis said employers and employees should be clear about the amount of work expected when making flexible arrangements. She said frustration can be caused when employees who previously worked extra hours on top of their full-time schedule expect not to do any overtime when they are part-time.

Regus HR director for Northern Europe Clare Cavallucci agreed it is important this is made clear. “As HR we have a responsibility to make sure that the managers understand what it means if a person starts working 4 days instead of 5,” she said.

Suzy Levy, human capital and diversity lead for Accenture, added that employees should be prepared to discuss scaling up and down their hours depending on the ebbs and flows of the business. She added that in recruitment it is important candidates think about the business and the role before their needs. “I see people lead on what they want. The candidate I’m looking for is one who is going to get the job done.”

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