Employees want flexibility – and we aren’t talking yoga moves. Key findings have been released from Aviva’s brand new ‘The Workplace of Tomorrow’ report, taking views on everything from flexible working through to finance and rewards and it turns out flexible working is a Very Big Deal to today’s workforce.

The problem? Adoption is not fast enough, and employees are scared to ask for flexible hours. Can you blame them when 42% of employers admit to refusing a request for flexible working and 11% of employees said their request had been refused? On the flip side, 64% of employees would be more likely to stay at a business that offered flexible working conditions, 36% also citing this as a deal-breaker for any new role they consider – and 35% of businesses surveyed said retention was a top priority for them in the next year.

Sound the klaxon – we think we spy a solution….

As a business do you offer flexible working?

The report suggests that two in three (65%) businesses think the workforce will work more flexibly in five years’ time Yet employer opinion differs on how that will look. The most common change employers expect to see is staff no longer working the traditional hours of 9am to 5pm (38%), with 30% anticipating more staff will want to work from home. Indeed more than a quarter (28%) of businesses think technology will play an increased role and lead to an opportunity for a general reduction in the hours worked.

The top ranking statements employees gave in favour of flexible working were:

  • Makes me happier
  • Helps me manage family / other responsibilities outside of work
  • Increases productivity
  • Increases loyalty

It’s not for everyone

Whilst it’s simplistic to say flexible working is the new default, we always consider the careers it’s not possible in, but the other factor is not everyone enjoys it. Negatives stated were that it would create employee conflict where more than one person wants time off / flexibility at the same time, tension because an employee would have to do more than their fair share of work when someone else is doing fewer hours, or it wasn’t of interest. For some businesses offering flexible working is not an option. The most common reason being a concern that the business would not operate as efficiently (39%), or they needed the core hours
to be covered (30%). 19% thought it would be too expensive to administrate a flexible working policy but 14% of businesses that do not currently offer flexible working say they will look to do so in the future.

Embracing flexible working will reap rewards 

Andy Briggs. CEO of Aviva Insurance comments:

“Although the law allows an employee to request flexible working, worryingly over one in five people are too fearful to ever speak to their boss about it. This comes despite the majority of employers believing flexible working will become the norm in the next five years, with a sense also among employees that the option to do so would keep them in their job longer.The hard business benefits of keeping employees happy through initiatives such as flexible working are undeniable. Yet achieving this can be a challenge – especially when faced with economic and demographic headwinds. The businesses that embrace this and meet the needs of employees will be ones that reap the rewards.”

Here are the top takeaways

  • A third of employers (34%) do not offer flexible working, but 14% vow to look at introducing it next year
  • More than one in five (21%) of the workforce dare not ask for flexible working even though it is within their legal rights
  • Almost two in three (64%) employees are more likely to stay with an employer who offers flexible working
  • When it comes to types of flexible working, employees value working from home the most (23%), followed by the option to work longer hours over a shorter number of days (22%).