Following a fantastic year of negotiating, on behalf of candidates and clients, flexitime, remote working, condensed hours, working from home, part-time hours and job shares, we decided to investigate whether our experience (that more and more applicants are keen to discuss flexible working options) gels with our clients’ experience, and the experience of the wider charity and not-for-profit sectors.
To backtrack for a moment – In March 2018, the British Government established the Flexible Working Taskforce, which is made up of charities and trade unions, to widen the availability and take-up of flexible working. However, even before this government-led initiative was launched, corporate organisations had begun exploring the idea of allowing their employees to work more flexibly to fit in other responsibilities such as childcare and caring for family members. This campaign seeks to promote business benefits associated with flexible working and address sector-wide concerns such as skill and labour shortages to allow work to be more accessible to those with disabilities, for example.
Working Families, which campaign on improved working patterns for parents with children, have indicated that flexible working leads to better staff morale, which can then lead to higher levels of job satisfaction. Moreover, different ways of working contribute to greater flexibility within the workforce to react to changing conditions.
Mental health charity, Mind, has said that flexible working helps employees manage their work-life balance, which is a benefit for their mental wellbeing. The charity also estimates that around 1 in 6 employees experience stress or anxiety and that flexible working schemes enable employees to take control of their lives and take care of their health. In surveys carried out by the likes of Know Your Money and the University of Warwick, 27% of employers feel that flexibility would empower staff to better manage their mental health while 65% of employees believe that choosing their own working hours would help them achieve a better work-life balance.
Emily Casson, Digital Marketing Manager at Cats Protection, in an article for the Institute of Fundraising, explained that remote workers do need support and do still need to feel like they are a part of the greater staff for an organisation even though they work flexible hours or from home. Things such as weekly Skype calls and ad-hoc face-to-face meetings enable remote workers or those working flexible hours to still be valued by a team. She concluded by saying that staff in her team based remotely or working flexible hours have increased levels of productivity, which in turn, has seen income growth with the fundraising work her team carries out.
We spoke to some of our clients and the findings demonstrated that the conversation around flexible working can be complex and there is certainly no ‘one size fits all’ solution:
Essentially, from the business perspective, it may not always be tenable to work from home and not all positions are suitable with regards to flexible working as this may not suit all departments. All in all, it can be difficult for an organisation to have a general flexible working policy as this may not be feasible for certain departments.
Despite the reasons for and against flexible working, the number of people take up these arrangements has flat-lined for the first time since 2010 according to research published in early 2019. Depending on the size of the organisation, there may be limited scope to negotiate flexible working arrangements with an employer or simply missed opportunities from the employee’s side to discuss flexible arrangements with their manager, for example. Moreover, not all employers will be able to accommodate their employee’s flexible working requests but, in instances where they can, the policy has reaped dividends, as our clients have demonstrated.
So, to conclude, as an applicant how do you negotiate flexible working in the context of a new job offer?