Big businesses criticised for blocking flexible working

Employees who work flexibly are happier with their jobs, less stressed and have a better work-life balance.

However, the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) has blamed the attitudes of managers and business leaders for blocking greater flexible working.

It published the findings as part of its Opportunity through work: A manifesto for London which urges the next Mayor of London and businesses to champion better work and working lives in the capital.

CIPD London head David D’Souza said that as new generations entered the labour market and older generations stayed in work longer, the rigid working habits many employers abided by would have to change.

“Of course some people are restricted in their ability to work flexibly because of the nature of their jobs but far too often it’s the attitudes of managers and business leaders that are the major obstacles to increasing the use of different types of flexible working,” he added.

The CIPD wants the collaboration project to include:

  • Boosting productivity and skills utilisation in the London labour market
  • Supporting diversity and inclusion and opportunities that enable people of all ages to succeed in London’s competitive labour market
  • Championing flexible working
  • Protecting the lowest paid in London
  • Encouraging London’s biggest organisations to take a long-term, people-focused approach to corporate governance

Among the key benefits of working flexibly reported by employees was the lack of commuting and increased productivity.

Despite these benefits and a much longer average commuting time, workers in London were slightly less likely to be able to work flexibly than their colleagues around the country.

According to research from the CIPD, just over half (52%) of Londoners were able to work flexibly compared to 54% of workers nationwide.

The CIPD was particularly surprised at the results given the push around the 2012 Olympics to encourage alternative working practices and to reduce strain on the transport network.

As a result, the organisation has called on the next Mayor of London to lead a campaign and work with employers and professional bodies to boost flexible working.

Its research highlighted the positive impact that flexible working had on the working lives of people living in London:

  • Two thirds (69%) of employees who worked flexibly said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs, compared to 52% of employees that did not work flexibly.
  • Just 24% of flexible workers reported being under excessive pressure every day or once or twice a week, compared to 42% of non-flexible workers.
  • A quarter (23%) of flexibly workers were very satisfied with their work-life balance compared to just one in ten (10%) who did not work flexibly.
  • The top benefits of flexible working cited were: better work-life balance (53%); less time spent commuting (32%); reduced stress (30%) and improved productivity (30%).

D’Souza added: “There’s a clear divide in the quality of working lives between London workers who work flexibly and those that don’t.

“Flexible workers are happier workers but there is still far too much focus on traditional 9-5 work cultures and an ongoing challenge of businesses placing too much value on time spent at the desk and not enough on people’s actual outputs. Where Londoners are working flexibly, this is mostly restricted to part-time working or flexi-time unless they are a middle or senior manager.

“Rather than being the preserve of more senior managers, the opportunity to work flexibly in different ways needs to become the norm for many more employees,” he added.

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