A quarter value flexibility at work more than a pay rise

Erik Fjellborg Quinyx flexibility

A quarter (25%) of respondents state that no increase in salary would make them forgo flexibility at work, according to research by workforce management software organisation Quinyx.

Its Work that keeps the UK working: how flexible working can help power 24-hour Britain in a post-Brexit age report, which surveyed 2,018 full and part-time employees in the UK who work both fixed and non-fixed hours, also found that 36% of respondents would need at least a 31% increase in their salary if they were to waive flexibility at work, although 47% of respondents aged over 55 cite that no boost in wages could persuade them to forgo their flexibility.

Erik Fjellborg (pictured), chief executive officer and founder at Quinyx, said: “Widening skills gaps, a lag in productivity and Brexit on the horizon [means] British businesses are struggling to find, hire and retain the [employees] they need.

Flexible working is an untapped solution to the UK’s biggest business challenges; the more employees are able to choose the right schedule for them, the happier, and therefore more productive, they’ll be. But, it’s clear that the current mindset needs to change. Flexibility does not need to mean increased costs and logistical nightmares; in fact, with the right tools in place, it’s simple and economical. By increasing flexibility, employers will give [staff] a voice and a choice, ultimately increasing productivity, retention and their overall performance.”

More than one in 10 (17%) of respondents think that their schedule suggests that their employer does not care about their wellbeing outside of work, as 10% believe their family life is suffering because of a lack of flexibility at work and 15% feel isolated from family and friends due to their schedule.

“Ultimately this impacts the quality of life for millions of people,” explained Fjellborg. “It’s quite unfair that you have a big portion of society that has flexibility and a big portion that doesn’t. It can affect health issues, family and friends. It’s a huge opportunity to create a better life for many, many people, and I think it’s unfair that [blue-collar workers] are just unlucky to work in an industry where flexibility is more difficult.”

Around 80% of respondents aged between 16 and 24 said they face barriers to achieving more flexible work schedules; linked to this, only 17% of employees surveyed stated that their employer proactively offered flexible working arrangements. Around 16% of respondents believe their manager would react badly to a request for greater flexibility and 15% worry that requesting flexible working would impact negatively on promotions and career progression. A further 15% also think that flexible working arrangements makes schedule planning too difficult for their managers.

Discussing this complexity, Fjellborg said: “It’s a big challenge to make sure the attractive shifts are spread fairly. There has to be a manager who can make sure there isn’t an employee who puts himself or herself on too many shifts, for example. The human element is very important, having a manager who can supervise and make sure flexibility is working. But it impacts staff retention, they will stay for a longer time. And actually when you start playing around with flexibility, you get better at having the right person for the right [job].”

A fifth (20%) of employees who work shifts put the ability to pick and choose their own shifts at the top of their priority list with regards to flexibility, while 16% prioritise the ability to change or swap shifts at late notice.

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Fjellborg added: “Whether male or female, young or old, with a bar or boardroom as an office, everyone should be offered fair and flexible work. While zero-hours contracts work for some, many of the other formal flexible working arrangements that are currently in place are for men in white-collar industries. This means that women, youth, and blue-collar [employees] are often left behind.

“It is essential that business leaders and managers address this and ‘unforget’ this previously forgotten workforce. That’s why we’re calling on employers across the UK to work with all their staff to better understand and implement the flexibility that’s right for them.”