New research from LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, highlights a potential impending ‘flexidus’ amongst women in the UK workforce, with a staggering 52% saying they’ve considered leaving, or have left, their role due to a lack of flexibility.
According to the research, it’s clear that a perceived lack of flexibility at work is having a significant impact on women’s careers. Of the women who have left a job because of a lack of flexible working, more than one in five (21%) say their career progression has been hindered, and 25% decided to take a career break as a result.
This comes despite 80% of UK businesses saying they’ve improved their workplace policies since the pandemic to offer employees greater flexibility – exposing a clear disconnect. This is further reflected by the fact that nearly three-quarters (73%) of hiring managers believe that employees are largely satisfied with their company’s flexible working offering, and another 78% say their company offers employees enough flexibility for them to balance personal commitments outside of work.
When it comes to preferred flexible working options, the top three most helpful policies according to women surveyed are: 1) flexible start and finish times (74%), 2) increased annual leave/holiday allowance (71%), and 3) a four-day working week determined by employees (68%). The research also highlighted a desire from women to have the ability to work remotely on set days determined by employees (61%), compared to 48% of men.
Nearly two-thirds (65%) of hiring managers note that women have become more confident to ask for greater flexibility since COVID-19. A further 28% have observed more men requesting flexible working options since the pandemic.
Janine Chamberlin, UK Country Manager at LinkedIn, said: “While it’s been heartening to see many businesses bolster their flexible working policies since the pandemic, there is clearly a disconnect between what companies are offering and what women want and would find most helpful. It’s important that businesses continue to listen to employees’ needs – otherwise they risk talented women finding opportunities elsewhere or leaving the workforce entirely. As we redesign workplaces for a new world of work, we must ensure flexibility is at the core and that it works for everyone.”
Steve Collinson, Chief HR Officer at Zurich UK, comments: “Flexible working has been an integral part of our business culture for almost a decade. For us, it spans across every employee. We see people looking for flexibility for a whole range of reasons such as parental caring responsibilities right through to portfolio careers and further education. We’ve gone further than just allowing people to flex their hours, we offer pretty much every advertised role on a potential part time or job share basis which has helped increase the number of women applying for roles and being hired into senior positions. This has also led to double the number of part time hires which means we’ve opened ourselves up to a whole new pool of talent. The icing on the cake is that overall applications have risen by two thirds. We believe this is about people looking to work for a business which offers the benefits they may want in the future or simply have shared values with them.”
Molly Johnson-Jones, Founder of Flexa Careers, said: “The increased normalisation of flexible working is a huge step forward for gender equality. Whilst women benefit enormously from working from home arrangements and flexible hours, as well as other forms of flexibility such as career breaks and enhanced annual leave, it is crucial that flexible working is accessible to everyone as we shouldn’t have to justify our need for this based on gender. Companies that offer flexible working to all, without request processes requiring individuals to state the “need” for it, are the ones that are creating true equity in the workplace.”
To support more consistent and equitable flexible working for all, LinkedIn is launching a series of initiatives to help break biases around career flexibility. The company recently introduced a new ‘career break’ option, giving members a new way to reflect breaks from work on their LinkedIn Profile and normalise flexible careers. LinkedIn is also encouraging members to share what flexible working really means to them and how it has supported their career using the hashtag #FlexibleIs.
LinkedIn is also offering free courses to help support flexibility and inclusivity in the workplace, with LinkedIn Learning courses available on Negotiating Work Flexibility, Preparing Your Family Leave and Return and Inclusive Female Leadership. The courses are available for free until the end of May.
Last year, LinkedIn created a new approach to flexible working with the focus on trusting its employees to determine the best approach. Teams are empowered to choose where they work based on what works best for them, with options of hybrid and remote roles.