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Flexible working

Shortages of talent and skills mean that many knowledge workers have the bargaining power to negotiate their working conditions, including around flexible working. People want flexibility – or sovereignty – over both time and space. They do not want fixed hours, but instead express a preference for choosing the hours they work as long as they could ensure the job was done. For many employees, flexible working has evolved from being the exception to being the norm.

At the same time, organisations’ demand for flexible working has changed, with businesses now having to meet the 24/7 customer need for their services. The recession has drastically changed the nature of the work, reducing the number of full-time jobs and causing many organisations to rely on part-time and temporary staff, assigning them flexible working schedules. Some have sought to optimise the use of organisational resources (such as computers and desks) through shift work and working from home.

The Work Foundation has a long record of expertise on:

  • employee demand for work-life balance and employee voice in negotiating flexible working 
  • employee perceptions of the availability of flexible working opportunities, including the type of employment (by industry and occupation) that would benefit from or be disadvantaged by flexible working 
  • employee attitudes to the benefits and risks of flexible working 
  • employee perception of how well work-life balance policies meet their needs 
  • changes in the labour division at home following policy and organisational changes.

Related Reports

Working Anywhere
The UK is on the verge of a mobile working ‘tipping point’ – when working away from the office becomes more common than working solely from a desk.

Cathy Garner, Helen Sheldon & Peter Forbes
24 February 2016

Flexibility or insecurity? Exploring the rise in zero hours contracts
Whatever the hard numbers tell us, zero hours contracts (ZHCs) have come to symbolise a wider concern that the labour market is moving towards more contingent, less secure, and more exploitative forms of employment at a time when in many areas jobs are scarce and people have little choice over taking whatever work is available.

Ian Brinkley
28 August 2013

About time for change
Provides insight into what 'work-life balance' means to people

Alexandra Jones
01 April 2006

Where’s Daddy?: The UK Fathering Deficit
Families are society in miniature. Families foster trust, build relationship skills and moral values.

Stephen Bevan and Alexandra Jones
01 January 2003

Related Events

Employment Law Seminar: `Right to Request`- Flexible Working
From 30 June 2014 employee’s statutory right to request flexible working was altered.On receipt of the request, employers are now duty bound to judiciously consider all submissions case by case, but are not required to accept all requests.

Wed, 08 October 2014
08:30 - 12:00

Related Blogs

Office life: the changing ways of working
When it comes to design and working practices, office workers have witnessed more than a few changes in recent years. Lilli Hender, from workplace experts OfficeGenie.co.uk, discusses some of the most popular trends

28 June 2016

The latest labour market analysis
Growth has resumed in the labour market with an increase of 44,000 comparing Jan-Mar 2016 with the previous three months, but it is much more subdued than in 2015. And for the first time in many quarters, there was no rise in permanent jobs. All of the increase was for the self-employed and temporary employee workers. With weak hiring it is the young, as usual, who loose out. Overall unemployment remained unchanged at 5.1 per cent, but unemployment among 18 to 24 year olds went up from 12 per cent to 12.2 per cent.

18 May 2016

Night tubes and seven day working in the NHS - part of the 24 hour society?
Is there a trend towards the 24/7 society where we want and need access to an increasing range of services at anytime, day or night? There is good reason to think that unsocial hour working is on the rise enabled by demand and new technologies that means people never quite leave their desks - but is this really the case?

02 February 2016

Shared Parental Leave. Not for Losers.
We monitor the take-up of paternity leave to help us weed-out the losers’. This was the proud claim of the HR Director of an investment bank we interviewed for a study back in 2002. He was very happy to showcase the bank’s ‘enlightened’ HR policies in public, but privately admitted that any father who took their full paternity leave entitlement could look forward to career stagnation as a result.

01 December 2014

Branson unlimited holiday plan for Virgin blazes trail others should follow
Professor Cary Cooper discusses the recent announcement by Virgin to introduce and new annual leave policy.

29 September 2014

Smartphones: A blessing or a curse?
Research from Institute of Leadership Management yesterday ( 9 July) highlighted that half of UK managers work at least an extra day of overtime a week. The report made for some uncomfortable reading: 65% of managers reported feeling under pressure to work extra hours, only 13% felt they had good work-life balance. Smartphone technology came under attack as a contributor to being overworked

10 July 2014

Flexible working: right to request, not right to have
While many employees will welcome the right to request flexible working, Dr Zofia Bajorek has concerns about its implementation and management. Will it be an organisational help or hindrance?

02 June 2014

Home based working – how can it benefit everyone?
The Office for National Statistics recently published data from the latest census showing that 10.4% of UK workers are now home based.

Head of Wellbeing at Bank Workers Charity
07 April 2014

The NHS Conundrum: Locum Costs vs Patient Care.
Dr Zofia Bajorek, a researcher within the centre for workforce effectiveness looks at the use of temporary staff in the NHS and asks how this might affect patient care.

Dr Zofia Bajorek
14 January 2014

All power part time: How championing leading part time executives could change the future of work for a generation
For years, the words ‘part time’ has been synonymous with junior responsibility and low pay. And yet, the pool of people who want such jobs, is far more diverse than that.

Karen Mattison MBE, co-founder of the Timewise Foundation
07 August 2013

Is the future of work going to be contingent?
Ian Brinkley's latest blog responds to findings a report 'It’s (almost) all about me' which makes the assertion that many more people will work in non-traditional forms of employment by 2030.

Ian Brinkley
31 July 2013

Seeking an end to discrimination for working parents
Reports over the weekend about the extent of discrimination facing women who return to work after taking maternity leave, highlight a continuing issue in the UK both in terms of equality and the economy.

Karen Steadman
12 March 2013

Carer or career?
Carers Rights Day last week aimed to raise awareness and give advice to the 6.4 million people in the UK who are caring for members of their family, but many are having to choose between their caring responsibilities and their career.

Lisa O'Dea
04 December 2012

Can single parents find a place in the aspiration nation?
Throughout this latest party conference season, we’ve been bombarded with speeches and soundbites about the importance of work – getting it, keeping and progressing through it. But while George Osborne issued a “wake-up call” to those he labelled as ‘sleeping off a life on benefits’ in the form of drastic cuts to welfare, and the Prime Minister spoke of an ‘aspiration nation’, the question remained – what about those who want to work, but find the barriers to getting a job impossible to overcome?

Caroline Davey, Director of Policy, Advice and Communications for Gingerbread
15 October 2012

Trading Shares for….a P45?
Mr Osborne managed to avoid using the word ‘growth’ even once in his speech at the Conservative Conference this week. Yet, as the IMF pointed out in their report the day after, this is something which the UK and other developed economies are likely to be short of for a few months yet.

Stephen Bevan
10 October 2012

Sink or swim?
Having-it-all’. A phrase and aspiration once championed by working women everywhere has now morphed into a millstone around the necks of an entire generation

Annie Peate
26 September 2012

Zero hours contracts and the flexible labour market
Recent media interest in zero hours contracts has shed some light into a largely forgotten corner of the UK’s flexible labour market. The zero hour contract, in effect, requires the individual to be available for work, but his or her employer are under no obligation to provide work. Some employers see zero hours contracts as a way of ensuring flexibility and remaining competitive in situations where work fluctuates unexpectedly from day to day or week to week. However, some of those on zero hours contracts see them as exploitative, where they bear all the risk and where the balance of interest lies almost entirely with the employer.

Ian Brinkley
17 August 2012

Wellbeing at Work
About a month ago Stephen Bevan, myself and Patrick Watt of Goldman Sachs did a webinar on wellbeing in the workplace. We heard from Patrick about what Goldman Sachs was doing to enhance wellbeing amongst its staff, and how this has led to bottom line results for their organisation.

Professor Cary L Cooper
14 May 2012

We’re not looking for Superwomen
A new report published today (12 March) by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) claims women aren’t after examples of female role models who have ‘given it all’ to reach senior management positions. Instead, women would prefer to see mentors who have achieved a successful work/life balance – without the sacrifice repeatedly advertised as integral to success.

Annie Peate
12 March 2012

Reflections on Health, Work and Wellbeing at the Conservative Party Conference
If we are to create a healthy workforce, we need to identify the structural issue in the organisation that may inhibit this, whether a long hours culture or glass ceiling for women or a bullying management style...

Professor Cary L Cooper, Distinguished Professor of Organisational Psychology and Heal
05 October 2011

The One Show: former ‘Apprentice’ focuses on working mothers
If you are a fan of The Apprentice you probably remember Katie Hopkins from a couple of series ago. She didn’t quite conform to the ‘pushy squirt’ template of the other competitors although, among other things, she raised eyebrows when she withdrew from the show at a very late stage citing childcare concerns. Since the show she has returned to her career in consultancy and has taken to airing her sometimes challenging views in national newspapers and on other TV shows like Question Time.

Stephen Bevan
05 May 2011

Related News

2017: The year Dolly Parton will finally be proved wrong as working 9am-5pm no longer ‘the way to make a living’
Today, a new report produced by Lancaster University’s Work Foundation, and commissioned by Citrix, has revealed the UK is on the verge of a flexible working ‘tipping point’ – when working away from the office becomes more common than working solely from a desk, 9am-5pm. Find out more...

24 February 2016

Do public sector workers really take more sick leave?
Since the coalition government was elected in 2010 the UK public sector has become a political battleground. For some, it is complacent and bloated, with a culture of entitlement, gold-plated pensions with generous early retirement options, automatic pay rises based on “sitting tight” in your job and levels of job security which contrast with the precariousness of the “real world”. For others, especially in the last five years, the public sector has been under siege, with over 450,000 jobs cut since 2010 and up to 400,000 more forecast by 2020. It has been hit by pay freezes, reduced pension benefits, increased workloads and deflated morale.

Theconversation.com
11 January 2016

Stephen Bevan: we still don't trust people to work flexibly
The prevailing culture of most workplaces is still not ready to trust people to work out of sight

HR Magazine
08 December 2015

Dr Zofia Bajorek discusses flexible benefits schemes in Employee Benefits
Web article from Zofia Bajorek, The Work Foundation, on flexible benefits schemes.

Employee Benefits.co.uk
28 August 2014

The Work Foundation featured in Employee Benefits on topic of flexible benefits
Article on flexible benefits in Employee Benefits magazine: Who wants what?

Employee Benefits
27 August 2014

Zofia Bajorek from The Work Foundation warns of dangers to health and wellbeing from overtime
The Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) said that two thirds of UK managers feel under pressure to work extra hours for their employers.

Supanet (Web)
12 July 2014

Zofia Bajorek warns about the dangers of overtime on health and wellbeing
Almost half of the UK's managers work one day of unpaid overtime every week, according to the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM).

Fresh Business Thinking (Web),
12 July 2014

The Work Foundation cited in HR Grapevine on overtime and its impact on performance and wellbeing
A study into working practices revealed that around half of the UK’s managers work an extra day of unpaid overtime per week.

HR Grapevine
10 July 2014

Zofia Bajorek quoted in BBC News on overtime and health and wellbeing implications
Overtime and the health and wellbeing implications to employees is discussed by Zofia Bajorek from The Work Foundation in BBC News Online

BBC (Web)
10 July 2014

The Work Foundation's Chief Economist Ian Brinkley, cited in the FT on self-employment
The Work Foundation cited in the FT on self-employment and its relationship to higher income and work life balance

Financial Times
08 July 2014

moneyexpert.com cites Zofia Bajorek, The Work Foundation, on overtime and implications to employee wellbeing
Roughly half of UK managers put in an extra day of unpaid overtime work a week, a study into working practices has indicated. The Institute of Leadership and Management went on to suggest a lesser total of managers, amounting to an estimated 13%, work two days overtime per week without financial incentive

moneyexpert.com
05 July 2014

The Work Foundation quoted in People Management Online on 'overtime culture', underperformance and employee wellbeing
Excessive workloads and smart phone technology enabling ‘overtime culture’

People Management Online
05 July 2014

Zofia Bajorek from The Work Foundation quoted on overtime and employee wellbeing in Wiltshire Business
Almost half of UK managers work an extra day of unpaid overtime per week, a study into working practices has suggested. Work pressures and easy access to email through smartphone technology leave over 90 per cent of managers working outside contracted hours, the study found.

Wiltshire Business Online
05 July 2014

Zofia Bajorek from The Work Foundation discusses overtime and employee wellbeing concerns in Swindon Advertiser
Article on overtime culture and implicatons to employee wellbeing and performance.

Swindon Advertiser
05 July 2014

Iain Brinkley, Chief Economist, quoted in Bloomberg on self-employment, job security and flexible working.
Article on the rise of flexible working and the advantages and problems with job security.

Bloomberg
03 July 2014

Channel 4 online interview Tiffany Tsang on the gender pay gap rise
Tiffany Tsang interviewed for Channel 4 online talking about the gender pay gap rise

Channel 4 online
12 December 2013