Are you flexing for return-to-workers?
Guest Blog by Richard Morris, UK CEO, Spaces
A recent survey from coaching organisation Women Returners reveals that 87% of women making a return from a career break want the option to work flexibly. The figure makes for interesting reading at a time of declining candidate availability and with demand for staff growing at the fastest rate since 2015.
Businesses are on the look-out for top talent, and often women returning from career breaks will be armed with the necessary experience and skill set. The onus is therefore on HR departments to ensure that business working patterns are flexible enough to accommodate every type of job-seeker.
The Women Returners research tallies with our own findings on the appeal of flexible work to today’s workforce. Our survey among over 2000 UK professionals revealed that, if faced with two similar job offers, nine out of 10 workers would choose the company offering flexible working. Further, more than half of UK professionals would actively change their current job if one with more flexible working was offered.
Businesses and HR professionals should not confuse flexible working with part-time working. What these return-to-work women are looking for is the freedom to fit the working day around their lifestyles. They want the flexibility to work at or nearer to home, to adapt start and finish times and to manage their own work/life balance more effectively.
Importantly, working flexibly does not mean working in isolation. Co-working spaces, which offer an alternative to working from home, provide all the social buzz of an office without restricting employees to fixed hours and routines. These are environments specifically created to foster innovation and drive productivity, with employee wellbeing firmly to the fore when it comes to aesthetic design decisions and the inclusion of communal areas such as cafes, bars and activity-led breakout areas.
The UK boasts one of the best networks of professional workspace, with flexible work options now available in most large towns and cities. However, according to our same research, just 7% of UK firms say they are seeing more mums return to the workplace than last year.
The challenge for employers is not so much logistical. Rather, it is attitudinal – a change in mindset from measuring performance by visibility and time spent at the desk to measuring on output and results. It’s important for businesses to consider flexible working as an opportunity for people to work more productively, in a way which suits their lifestyle and fits their schedule on any given day.
This may require changes to be made to reporting structures and for employers to adopt new management techniques. As the structure of the typical working day continues to evolve, especially for those returning to work, more trust must be placed in the hands of the employees, showing confidence in their professionalism and flexing the job around the person rather than asking the person to fit an outdated and rigid structure.
The financial and logistical benefits of working flexibly are convincing but forward-thinking business owners see well beyond these advantages. Attitudes are changing and businesses are championing working structures that aim firstly to attract the very best employees and then to get the best work from each individual.
Clearly, the option to work more flexibly is a major draw for top professionals, and particularly for women returning from a career break. Businesses recognising this fact – and moving away from old-fashioned work routines – will stand out from competitors as these talented individuals seek their next career move.