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November 16, 2018updated 23 Dec 2019 10:20am

A quarter of UK workforce have turned down a job over flexible working

Be it to accommodate childcare, hobbies, or simply for greater convenience, UK workers are increasingly demanding the option of flexible working.

By Ellen Daniel

Be it to accommodate childcare, hobbies, or simply for greater convenience, UK workers are increasingly demanding the option of flexible working.

Flexible working, that is having flexible start and finish times or working from home, is not just something that employees would like to happen, it is a very real factor in an increasing number of workers turning down jobs, new research has found.

Research by communications technology business TeleWare has revealed that almost a third of UK workers would turn down a job opportunity that didn’t allow flexible working, and 25% have already done so.

This indicates the move away from the traditional nine to five day that many industries are currently experiencing. This is only set to increase as technology develops, allowing workers to remain seamlessly connected outside of office hours and fixed office buildings.

Millennials lead demands for flexible working

The survey of 2,300 UK full time employees revealed that almost nine in 10 employees find it important to choose the hours they work and where from. This is particularly prevalent among millennials, with 93% 25–34 year-olds saying that important for them to be able to choose both the hours they work and the place they work from.

The research uncovered that the proportion of those that have turned down a job for this reason is higher among millennials, at 40%, whereas three in 10 employees over 45 would turn down a job if flexi-work options were not on offer.

However, Steve Haworth, CEO at TeleWare, believes that it is not just millennials, typically thought to be more attracted to flexible working, who are jumping on the trend:

“Millennials often get labelled as the digital nomads, expecting work to fit around their lives. However, our research reveals that the appetite for flexible working and a ‘work from anywhere’ culture isn’t just confined to those under 35. Many businesses are falling at the first hurdle in attracting staff by not providing attractive, flexible working options. Losing valuable talent to businesses that embrace flexible working styles for all levels.”

UK workers have right to flexible working requests

Thanks to the Flexible Working Regulations brought in in 2014, every employee in the UK has the right to request to work flexibly. However, less than three in 10 UK employees work for companies that operate flexible working schemes for all, and one in five companies only allowing those of a certain level of seniority to work flexibly.

The extent to which employees value flexibility is further highlighted by a recent report by The Avast Business 2018 Mobile Workforce, which found that 52% of workers would  rather take a pay cut than being restricted to an office.

This indicates that by not offering the option of flexible working, employers could be hindering their search for talent, particularly among younger workers. They may therefore need to re-think the structure of the working day, as well as the working environment itself, to keep up with demand.

Haworth believes that the technology to bring about flexible working already exists; employers just need to embrace it:

“The technology to address this is readily available, with many businesses already using it to not only boost productivity and profits, but also develop a happier, healthier and more loyal workforce. The expectations of employees will continue to increase; businesses therefore need to address the flexible working elephant in the room before it’s too late.”

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