Don’t withdraw flexible working, report warns

Less than a week after the CIPD launched a campaign demanding staff are given flexible working from day one, a Bright Horizons’ report has warned employers face an ‘iceberg of staff discontent’, if flexibility is removed once Covid-19 (Coronavirus) restrictions are over.

The report – its Modern Families Index – found workers overwhelmingly support the continuation of flexible hours and hybrid working.

It discovered 42% of women now regard flexibility as essential to meet their childcare commitments, while 14% say it is ‘needed’ to meet their eldercare requirements.

Overall 32% of the 1,000 working parents surveyed said working flexibly allowed them to work more effectively. Only 9% of staff viewed flexible working negatively.

Such is its new-found acceptance, it found 18% of employees now want to work entirely from home, with a further 57% wanting a hybrid (home-office) working pattern. For one-in-five respondents, working flexibly now meant they were able ‘to pursue outside interests and hobbies’.

Responding to the findings, Denise Priest, director of employer partnerships at Bright Horizons, said: “In previous years, our survey has shown an increasing desire among both mothers and fathers for greater flexibility at work. But 2020 has been truly extraordinary.”

She added: “Of concern though, we found fewer than a quarter of staff polled (24%) said their employers had given them a clear message that flexible working was positively viewed. Just 58% of those surveyed agreed their organisation cares about their work-life balance, and only 59% that their manager cares about them.”

She continued: “The hidden hazard now for employers is that new expectations sit below the surface like an iceberg. This survey strongly suggests that when economic certainty returns, highly-valued staff will judge their companies on how they supported them during the crisis.”

She added: “Clear disagreement between some organisations and their workers about what normality should mean is a worry. Only those employers who have recognised the heightened priority of family life and provided practical support for their staff will retain – and gain – talented employees.”