Why flexi workers shouldn’t be dismissed for leadership roles

Jamie Mackenzie, Director at Sodexo Engage

The words “flexible working” can still strike terror into the hearts of some employers. Allow people to leave early? Or work from home? Surely that’s a recipe for disaster? But companies that don’t offer flexible working out of fear that employees will use it as an excuse to skive off need to have a rethink.

Showing employees that you care about their work-life balance can make all the difference to the way they feel about getting out of bed in the morning. Having a better quality of life means that employees are much more likely to emotionally invest in the company, which can work wonders for motivation, productivity and the bottom line.

In fact, if the recent Timewise Power 50 awards are anything to go by, flexible working could be the secret to success. The awards are a celebration of people who have made it to the top of their game working flexible hours – proof that you don’t need to work a 9-5, five-day week to be a great leader.   

The skills to succeed

We’ve all heard the old myth that flexible workers don’t always pull their weight compared to their office-based counterparts. In reality, the opposite is true. Many people that work remotely or during hours that suit them report having fewer distractions, getting more work done, and having a better overview of activity.

Moreover, employees who know they’ve been given this extra trust and responsibility are often willing to go that extra mile. After all, slaving away when your heart’s not in it just because you’re contracted to work certain hours can be demotivating and worse still, cause resentment.  And that isn’t great for business.

In fact, the Modern Families Index 2018 revealed that nearly 1 in 5 workers has deliberately stalled their career because of the limited work-life opportunities,[1] and 1 in 10 had rejected a promotion. That’s a lot of wasted talent for businesses that want to build a strong pipeline of future leaders.

At the same time, if employees are given more time to pursue other projects or personal development, they’ll be able to bring fresh ideas and perspectives to their work, and also be used to juggling different responsibilities. In other words, they will have all the traits that set an employee in good stead when it comes to climbing the career ladder.

Flexible working is good for business

With so many benefits on offer, it’s hard to understand why as many as one in three (30%) requests for flexible working is turned down – especially as nearly the same amount of workers (28%) say their desire for more flexible hours is one of the main reasons they might look for a new job.[2] 

Some companies might think that flexible working is just for parents feeling the pressure, but workers without children want a positive, supportive working environment too. Business leaders need flexibility for all sorts of reasons, from long commutes to caring for relatives or coping with a long-term health issue.  And with a huge 12.8 million days a year lost to stress, depression and anxiety[3], taking care of these employees’ wellbeing can go a long way.

Time and time again, research has shown that flexible workers are happier, and it’s well known that happier employees are more productive and motivated to succeed. According to the CIPD, as many as 9 out of 10 employees consider flexible working to be a key motivator for their productivity at work – even more than financial incentives (77%).[4]

Last but not least, if employees feel engaged and valued by their company, they’re also more likely to stay put, which will give them the opportunity to build up the skills and experience they need to become strong leaders and add value to the business. In fact, one study found that as many as nine in 10 bosses who offer flexible working said it had a positive impact on their business, including greater productivity, better staff retention and less sickness.[5] So it’s a win-win for everyone.

[1] https://workingfamilies.org.uk/news/2018-modern-families-index/

[2] https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/one-three-flexible-working-requests-turned-down-tuc-poll-reveals

[3] https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/dayslost.htm

[4] https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/flexible-working-business-case_tcm18-52768.pdf

[5] https://www.insider.co.uk/news/nine-10-flexible-working-firms-20528348

Author: Editorial Team

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