To be Flexible or Not? A Different Way of Working

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.


  • TimeWise, a social enterprise, highlighted in 2018 that 87% of the United Kingdom’s full-time workforce either works flexibly already or wish they could.
  • Furthermore, a staggering 92% of 18-34-year olds wish they had flexible working options in their current employment in order to make more time for leisure or study, cut down on commuting time and costs as well as it being generally more convenient.


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:

  • In some cases, an employee can apply for flexible or remote working once they’ve completed their probation period.
  • Other clients are willing to have this discussion during the hiring process.
  • One client commented that they have noticed an increase in individuals applying from areas far from London, where the charity is based, for roles almost with an assumption that the organisation can make the arrangement work. In the past, they commented that an individual may have noticed the vacancy, but they would have assumed that their location would rule them out and they wouldn’t apply.
  • Another client has published their flexible working policy on their website. Their policy indicates flexibility around the core hours of the organisation with one day working from home as standard. They remarked that because their policy is available on their website, they don’t tend to receive numerous requests from candidates and/or employees asking about additional flexible working provisions. However, the organisation has noticed an increase in employees and candidates requesting condensed hours. Furthermore, they indicated that they will shortly be phasing out a policy of allowing full time remote working as they have found that, especially with manager level positions, team morale has been affected.
  • Some of our clients discussed both an informal and formal approach to flexible working – with some members of staff agreeing with individual line managers that they work a couple extra hours during week and then time off on Fridays for instance.



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?

  • Check to see if the employer has a published version of their flexible working policy in order to see if they may be willing to accommodate your request. This will inform your negotiation strategy.
  • At the point of offer, really demonstrate that you are excited by the offer and then open a conversation about flexible working.
  • Understand where you could be willing to be flexible, any negotiation may require compromise on both sides. And remember that an organisation may be more open to flexible working on completion of a probation period when you are settled into your role and team.


If you require assistance with a vacancy or are thinking about your next career move, contact us at