Working 9am to 5pm in an office has been our traditional work pattern for decades. But – I’m pleased to say – this ubiquitous, rigid and often down-right unproductive way of working is thankfully slipping away in favour of more flexible and effective work models.
We just need some final valedictory action to see it off as the ‘expected’ way to work for good.
Our latest research (via a YouGov poll of more than 1,000 Scottish adults) shows roughly a third of employees currently have at least some flexibility over their hours and where they work, for example being able to amend their start or finish time or work from home if need be. This is better than where we’ve been.
But - a whopping two thirds of Scottish employees would like this kind of flexibility, which illustrates the gap between supply and demand for flexible jobs in Scotland and shows there is still much to do.
We also found the Scottish population is almost unanimous (95%) in its belief that work life balance is at least as important as salary. This includes nearly a third (32%) of the population who feel it is more important.
We’re releasing our findings this week to mark the National Work Life Week. It’s an opportunity for employees and employers to consider the benefits of flexible working.
There is already robust evidence of the business benefits of flexible working because it increases motivation, productivity and commitment. Flexible working is not about being a special case generously accommodated by your employer. By working flexibly, you’ll be more focused, less stressed and more productive.
Not just part-time mothers
And we’re not just talking about part-time working mothers. The desire for flexibility runs across the generations and is not gender specific.
More men are working flexibly around their children. Older workers want to slow down before retirement, or help look after grandchildren.
Middle-aged workers often have caring responsibilities for children still at home as well as elderly relatives. Younger workers may also have children and we’re seeing increasing examples of people pursuing hobbies, alternative jobs or study alongside their ‘main’ job.
In fact, when it comes to younger workers, there is growing evidence they have higher expectations about work life balance and are more willing to speak up about their dissatisfaction if they don’t get it.
Our own figures show that younger workers have larger discrepancies between the way they work now and the way they want to work.
We found millennial workers (aged 18 to 34) are more likely to work in an office all the time compared with older workers (aged 35 and over) - 66 per cent compared with 54 per cent respectively.
Yet the desire for flexibility over location was similar between the generations with 63 per cent for millennials and 67 per cent for older workers.
Similarly, about two thirds of millennial workers (68%) AND older workers (66%) would like at least some flexibility over their working hours. Yet millennials are less likely to enjoy flexibility now with just 29 per cent able to have at least some flexibility over when they work, compared with 35 per cent of older workers.
The difference even a little flexibility makes to someone’s commitment and productivity at work can be huge. Our team all work flexibly and for different reasons including, but not exclusively, caring for our children. We are committed to our jobs and to one another. We work hard to achieve our objectives and we also have a pretty good time at work. For me work is not somewhere you go it is something you do. It is part of life, not jostling against the rest of your life.
We’ve held on to the tradition of work meaning 9am to 5pm in the office for long enough. The reality is that the majority of Scottish workers want at least some flexibility over when and where they work and this isn’t compatible with the rigid model we’ve clung to for more than a century.
Dolly Parton may have made ‘9 to 5’ an institution with her iconic song from the Eighties. But nearly 40 years on – and with even more evidence to prove flexible working is good for business as well as making people happier - surely we can let go of our expectation that jobs must be office-based 9am to 5pm and make flexibility the norm.