Catherine Rickard: How can flexible working impact employees’ financial wellbeing?

Catherine Rickard flexible

The business benefits of flexible working initiatives and improved work-life balance have increasingly been recognised by organisations as a means of improving performance and employee productivity.

However, there are also direct benefits when it comes to financial wellbeing. For example, according to the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Employee Outlook: focus on commuting and flexible working report, published in April 2016, flexible working approaches, such as home or mobile working, compressed hours and flexi-time can have direct financial benefits for employees by potentially reducing the cost of their commute and enabling them to better manage caring responsibilities. It can also simply enable them to better stay on top of their financial affairs.

The CIPD recommended that employers should review their flexible working practices by consulting with staff over the type of flexibility that would be of most benefit to them, balancing this with the type of flexible working that would best support the business. Exploring flexible working in this way can not only positively impact employees’ financial wellbeing, but also their behaviour and performance at work.

Opening up flexible working opportunities across all jobs, including those at senior management levels, has the greatest potential to improve the financial wellbeing of female employees, in particular. Women’s options are often constrained by inflexible workplaces and practices and their access to quality, well-paid work is often limited; with the greatest availability of part-time work within ‘feminised occupations’ that are typically characterised by low pay, as found by Parken et al in the Working patterns in Wales: gender occupations and pay research, published in 2014.

Opening up flexible working opportunities to maternity returners, for example, may improve the retention rate of female employees, as well as boosting their financial wellbeing if they can retain their position, rewards and career progression. This, too, will ultimately impact the gender pay gap if women’s employment opportunities and pay are improved by such practices.

Catherine Rickard is research associate at the Institute for Employment Studies (IES)