Are Firms Ready To Flex?

12 January 2018

Firms are waking up to the importance of flexible working. But, as Sarah Broad, Head of Operations at Attune Jobs, argues, there are more than a few reasons to go one step further to keep pace with this fast-moving and increasingly important workplace issue.

At Attune Jobs, we talk to a lot of firms about flexible working. From this, we get a strong sense that they have accepted the need for flexible working whether that means working from home one or two days a week, flexing start and finish times, working part-time, condensed weeks or job sharing. The examples go on…


So why are firms willing to talk about flexibility?

It is employee led – Millennials (and others) are demanding it

The PwC report ‘The Future of Work: A Journey to 2022’ found that only 14% of UK employees want to work in a traditional office environment and one in five people say they want to work in a ‘virtual’ place where they can log on from any location or use collaborative work spaces. As more employees work flexibly, it will also encourage others. This isn’t a trend businesses in any sector can ignore.

It’s a means to attract and retain the best talent

Firms are competing for new skills and the best talent. Some firms and sectors are better than others in their approach to flexibility. Simmons & Simmons is among a growing number of firms, for example, that advertises all of its jobs as open to flexibility, inviting potential employees who want or need a degree of flexibility in their working lives to apply. This ensures the firm can access as broad a pool talent as possible.

In addition, other sectors are ahead of the game here, flexibility comes as standard. Firms that are slow to match flexible working policies just won’t secure the talent.

A flexible approach also helps keep employees happy, improves productivity levels and retains talent. For Pinsent Masons, for instance, staff turnover fell from 30.2 per cent upon introduction of flexible working in April 2014 to 17.5 per cent by June 2015. Allowing more flexibility in the working day has significantly helped to increase retention.

Technology – the enabler

Implementation of flexible working isn’t the obstacle it may once have been. It is relatively easy to give employees secure access to company networks, and professional networking tools mean communication across virtual teams can be every bit good as in the office. Skype, and its instant messaging function, delivers capabilities for always-on communication no matter where employees are based.

 Career variety

 Increasing numbers are managing a portfolio career to pursue other interests. Many of Attune’s job seekers are working flexible weeks to pursue other interests – from setting up their own businesses, writing books or training to swim the Channel. By taking on these different roles it allows new skills, capabilities and insights to develop more quickly, which in turn bring benefits for both employee and employer.

The importance of Fatherhood

We now live in an age when men actively want to be involved in their children’s upbringing.  According to a recently published report, the ‘2017 Modern Families Index’, more than half of millennial fathers want to move to a less stressful job to be more involved with the children, and 48% would take a pay cut to achieve better work-life balance.

And that’s before you consider how divorce and separation increases Fatherhood responsibility. Around 10% of single parents are Fathers, a figure that has remained consistent for a number of years. But on top of that are those who share parental responsibility following a separation, and who require every bit as much flexibility as Mothers for those times when they are wholly responsible for their children.

Increase in travel costs

With the cost of travel rising and commute times only increasing, reducing the pain of the daily commute may be one of the biggest drivers of flexible working.

And not just for workers. Does it really make sense for firms to have all employees spending so much of their time travelling? According to a 2016 report by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), as much as 90% of the workforce in England and Wales commute to work, spending an average of 56 minutes travelling, rising to 79 minutes in London. Other research suggests that as many as three million workers face commutes of two hours or more every day.  And that’s before you factor in strikes, delays, road traffic accidents, etc.

This is time that is largely lost to business. You then have to add on the productivity/performance costs of employees turning up frazzled after yet another awful journey – or ultimately deciding to hand in their notice because the commute is too hard.

Commercial property prices rise

Commercial property prices are only growing together with client demand for more cost efficiency. Lowering the costs of office space has become increasingly important for firms that want to maintain and grow the bottom line.

More firms are working on resourcing their offices differently with hot-desking becoming an increasing focus. According to property consultancy CBRE, businesses expect to cut the number of desks to one for every 1.5 to 1.75 people by 2020. This will only further increase levels of flexible working.

The world is changing. So now is the time for firms to prioritise their flexible working policies and processes, ensuring that both employers and employees reap the benefits of achieving true workplace flexibility for all.


If you would like hear more about Attune Jobs go to Attune Jobs is specifically designed to support the recruitment of talent into part-time and flexible roles across all business functions in law firms, including, secretarial, administrative, marketing and business development, HR, IT, finance, and project and knowledge management. If you are interested in hearing about part-time and flexible working jobs straight to your inbox sign up here



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