Around 4 million people have changed careers because of a lack of flexibility at work – almost 2 million of those in the last year – according to the CIPD.
The CIPD’s latest report, Flexible and hybrid working practices in 2023, argues that employers seeking to address skill shortages in their business need to ensure they offer flexible working to attract and retain staff.
The HR body found that a growing number of organisations now offer flexible working from the first day of employment (39% this year versus 36% in 2021), in advance of the introduction of government legislation announced in December 2022.
Fourteen per cent of employers said they will enable flexible working from the first day of employment before the legislation takes effect, which is still to be confirmed.
However, almost half (49%) of employers are still not aware of the upcoming legislation, despite the fact that 71% of workers consider a flexible working pattern important to them.
More than two-thirds of employees questioned by the CIPD said the ability to work remotely was important to them when considering a new role.
Londoners spend 2.3 days in the office per week
Those with disabilities or long-term health conditions were the most likely to have left a job in the last year (21%) or changed their profession due to a lack of flexible working (32%).
Forty per cent of organisations said there had been an increase in flexible working requests in 2023, and 66% said it was important to them to offer this when advertising jobs (compared to 56% in 2021).
Front-line workers are also increasingly gaining access to flexibility, the CIPD found. Almost two-thirds (65%) of employers provide some kind of flexibility to front-line workers.
That said, 29% of workers would use flexi-time arrangements if offered, and only 17% currently use this option. Other flexibility options that were desired but not as widely used were term-time working, compressed hours, job sharing and annualised hours.
Claire McCartney, senior resourcing and inclusion adviser at the CIPD, said employers were facing “dual challenges” of skills shortages and retention issues, particularly in sectors such as healthcare, education and hospitality.
“Our latest research reinforces that offering flexible working can go a long way towards tackling these problems, even in roles that are traditionally seen as non-flexible,” she said.
“By outlining flexible working options in job advertisements, employers can also open up recruitment to wider talent pools and create fairer and more inclusive workplaces. This transparency supports workers to ask for flexibility and helps to normalise the conversation for all groups.
“More needs to be done to educate and prepare organisations for pending legislation to make flexible working requests a day one right. However, employers don’t need to wait to make a change to their flexible working policies and should offer the right to request flexible working from day one of employment, wherever possible.”
The CIPD’s report offers a number of recommendations for employers when it comes to flexible and hybrid working strategies, such as:
- Internal policies on day-one flexible working requests.
- Indicating in job ads that roles can be done flexibly, where possible.
- Raising awareness of different types of flexible working, particularly in roles that have traditionally been seen as non-flexible.
- Providing training and support to managers on managing flexible and hybrid teams.
- Developing an action plan to ensure hybrid working supports inclusion.
- Consulting with employees when designing hybrid working practices.
Tina Woods, CEO of Business for Health, a coalition of businesses focused on employee wellbeing, agreed that businesses needed to adapt ways of working to attract and retain staff.
“If flexible working isn’t available, employees, especially those with long-term health conditions are likely to feel stigmatised and shunned from the workplace leading to many being forced to stop working,” she said.
HR Shared Services opportunities on Personnel Today
Browse more HR shared services jobs