As we head towards the holidays and 2015, now is the time people start thinking about fresh starts and New Year's resolutions. This Friday 12th December Gingerbread, the charity for single parent families, is asking employers to make a resolution that could bring real gains to their businesses: introducing flexible working.
Thanks to new technologies, new types of jobs, and a growing awareness that there can never be a one-size-fits-all approach to working hours, many employers are questioning their loyalty to the traditional 9 to 5. They're experimenting with more flexible arrangements - be it home working job-shares, or compressed hours - to find different ways of organising their business to suit their operations, their customers, and ensure the wellbeing of their staff.
And it's bringing exciting results. For a start, it is helping these businesses save money. In our report on boosting single parent employment levels, we cite the example of IBM - an employer which offers 90 per cent of its staff the opportunity to work from home. This resulted in them having 7,500 fewer workspaces - a change which brought significant savings to the company.
Because flexible working offers employees the chance to find a working pattern that fits around the competing responsibilities of their personal lives - be it childcare, caring for a relative, or pursuing other interests - employers can also find giving staff the opportunity to change their working patterns could bring them the greatest of gifts this New Year: happiness. In a poll of 2,200 business owners and senior managers conducted by Regus, nine out of ten reported that offering flexible working options has improved staff morale. This has a double benefit for employers because happier staff are more likely to feel in control of and engaged by their work - leading to increased productivity. It's no surprise 50 per cent of businesses surveyed by the British Chamber of Commerce reported higher productivity as a result of having introduced flexible work arrangements.
When asked by Gingerbread to identify the top three features of their ideal job, one in three single parents chose the opportunity to work flexibly. This shouldn't be surprising, they are often the sole carers for their children which means juggling fixed hours with responsibilities on the home front is nigh on impossible. The persistence of a 9 to 5 working structure can keep these parents out of work - or trapped in the low-paid roles that are more likely to offer flexibility. That's why we're calling on the government to give all job-applicants the legal right to request flexible working arrangements from the moment when they are offered a new job - rather than having to wait six months into post.
Unfortunately, despite all the benefits for staff and employers, well-paid and secure flexible work arrangements still prove elusive. Many employers remain faithful to the 9 to 5: after all, for years now, it's been the way to make a living.
And that is exactly why we are hosting "Flexible Work Day" - to shout about the benefits of flexible working and encourage employers to explore the way modernising their approach to working arrangements could benefit their employees - and their businesses' bottom line.
Please help us make our day of celebration a success. Take to Twitter or Facebook today (Friday 12th December) and share your own example of how having the opportunity to work flexibly has made - or could make - a difference to your life or your business using the hashtag #FlexiWorkDay. The more stories we can promote on the day the more powerfully we will be able to demonstrate the difference that flexible working can make to employers and employees alike. And you never know, some employers might make a New Year's commitment to try-out flexible working in their business.
For more information on #flexiworkday and how you can get involved, head to our website.