Five years ago, UK employees gained the legal right to work flexible hours. However, despite it being more than half a decade since the introduction of the new policy, a large chunk of employers still do not offer flexible working.
The sectors you would expect to do best, such as the office-based businesses, are actually among the weakest performers.
Thirty-two per cent of office employees said that their employers had done nothing proactively to enable them to work more flexibly.
The statistics are particularly depressing when you consider what workers want from their office-based jobs.
According to a report by the PowWowNow Smarter Working Initiative, more than 70 per cent of workers who do not have access to flexible hours say that they would benefit from them. And more than 79 per cent of office workers saying that being able to work when they wanted would make them more flexible.
The Right to Request Flexible Working legislation came into force on 30 June 2014.
The idea was to allow employees to ask their employers for flexible working hours so that they could achieve a better work-life balance.
Flexible working was supposed to make it easier to collect children from school, get exercise, and meet with friends at more convenient times of the day. Policymakers believed that the law would improve society overall, even if it was slightly inconvenient for some employers.
But the data from the PowWowNow study shows that employers aren’t yet on board with the new legislation.
A substantial number of UK office workers are not on flexible working hours, meaning that many who could benefit from the bill are not.
Flexible working is not only a legal right but arguably crucial for the economy as a whole. The study revealed that 69 per cent of workers would feel more motivated if they had control over their hours.
Office workers don’t want to feel rigidly tied to their jobs during particular hours of the week and would prefer to arrange their work around other weekly events.
What’s more, employers might be able to pay less by offering more flexible hours. Thirty-five per cent of workers said that they would take home less money in exchange for being able to choose when they worked.
It’s not all bad news, however. More and more employers now embrace the flexible working culture.
In 2017, 54 per cent of workers said that their employers offered flexible hours. That figure jumped to 68 per cent in 2018 - a clear majority.
Flexible working is all part of a smarter approach to how we work in the UK.
The UK works the longest hours in Europe, yet when you look at the productivity per hour worked, it’s among the lowest. We don’t have to work as long as we do to achieve the same standard of living. It’s much better to take time out of our days to do non-productive, yet useful things, like exercise.
Mobile working is also having an impact. People do not necessarily have to be at the office to be of value to employers. All of this should mean that flexible working continues to grow in reach and popularity in the future.