The summer sun might have workers dreaming of finishing up early to get to the nearest park, yet just one fifth have the option to do so. Regardless of the weather, 84% of workers are calling for bosses to be more flexible with the hours they work, whether that’s hours to suit personal needs, or the occasional early finish. While employees have the legal right to request flexible working from their employer regardless of their existing contract, some companies have already built greater flexibility into their employer offering. Some go one step further with “agile working”, whereby employees can work from any location, at any time, by utilising technology.
Totaljobs has gained insight from over 2,400 people to give employers a better understanding of the wants and needs of UK workers, helping them to shape the best possible working environment. In comparison to other countries such as Sweden, who have implemented the ‘fika’ break (a chance for employees to take time out to spend with friends or relax with colleagues), many UK companies were found to be falling behind the times when it comes to providing the progressive working environment Brits are yearning for.
A more productive workforce
A fifth (21%) of people believe that they’re more productive in summer, meaning there’s no better time than now to adopt a flexible working structure and allow staff to make the most of the sunshine a little earlier. The research found that the opportunity to leave early could be the key to unlocking increased productivity in the workplace – 62% of employees felt that they would be more productive and get more done during the day if their employer offered the incentive of an early finish. It’s clear that the majority of management feel the same way – almost three quarters (73%) of middle managers believe that their team would be more productive if they were offered an early finish.
Last year, Totaljobs found that 38% of employees felt obliged to stay at work past their contracted hours, in a bid to appear more productive – known as ‘presenteeism’. This is partly a result of a need to be perceived as hard working by managers and colleagues. Embracing flexible hours could help to remove this pressure, as people have more freedom to dictate how their working day looks. With this brings greater trust between employer and staff, as the latter are empowered to find a routine that works for them in order to get work done.
Feeling the pressure
Despite so many workers wanting to get home after a day’s work, 44% would be worried about leaving early, believing their colleagues would judge them. 42% also admitted to feeling guilty even if their manager has allowed them to head off early, creating a worryingly unhealthy working environment.
Almost two-thirds (60%) of employees admitted that they are only ever allowed to leave early to attend personal appointments, such as the doctors. Some companies allow workers to leave early for other reasons, including as a reward for completing good work (41%), childcare (28%) and to beat rush hour (13%) – an ideal reward when the weather is hot.
The research also found that some have said enough is enough to the 9-5 and a ballsy 14% of employees admit to leaving without telling their boss, regardless of whether they have finished their work or not.
Finding and retaining talent
With 73% of UK businesses admitting they are struggling to find the staff they need, this new research suggests that offering flexible working hours or occasional early finishes could be an important factor in helping businesses attract and retain the best talent. In fact, nearly 80% of employees said that they would be less likely to leave a job if their employer allowed them to have flexible working hours. This is supported by 75% of employers, who claim flexible working boosts retention rates.
Alexandra Sydney, Group Marketing Director at Totaljobs said,
“A progressive approach to working hours could have an impact on a company’s bottom line through boosted productivity. This is essential in the current climate, with UK productivity currently sitting around 20% lower than pre-recession trends forecasted.
“From baristas to business analysts, workers value flexibility, meaning companies have the opportunity to be more adaptable when it comes to working hours. All employees have the legal right to request flexible working as part of their contract – not just parents and carers.
“Alongside this, simple incentives such as an early finish or giving employees a ‘flexible’ hour each week can make a significant difference to company culture, in terms of both wellbeing and team morale. Small perks like this can help to maintain happy, motivated staff that feel supported by management.”