Almost half of parents and carers (48%) hope to make changes to their working patterns after the Covid-19 pandemic, indicating that HR teams could receive an onslaught of flexible working requests ahead of the return to the office.
Work-life balance charity Working Families said more needed to be done to ensure work continued to stay flexible in future. It called on the government to act on its commitment to introduce legislation that required employers to advertise jobs with flexible options where possible, and to strengthen the statutory right to request flexible working by reviewing the amount of time that employers had to consider requests – currently three months.
Jane van Zyl, Working Families chief executive, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been an enormous challenge for working parents and carers left without childcare. Many have had to work early in the morning or late into the night so they can look after – and in many cases home-school – their children, leaving them stressed and exhausted.
“While the kind of flexible working parents have experienced during lockdown is far from ideal, what it has done is prove that flexibility can be unlocked in many more jobs than previously thought.”
van Zyl said the progress made around flexible working during lockdown must be extended so that employers could “harness the increases in productivity, talent attraction, and diversity that flexible working will bring to the UK economy”.
“We simply can’t go back to a time where long hours and being the last person in the office are seen as a mark of success,” she added.
The charity’s FlextheUK survey of 1,000 working parents and carers found nine in 10 wanted their workplace to retain flexible working options when work returned to ‘normal’.
Some 84% are now working flexibly, where only 65% were offered flexible options before the pandemic.
Of those who were not working flexibly before the pandemic, one in five intended to put in a request to work from home in the future, while one in 10 planned to formally request changes to their working hours and patterns.
Organisations seemed to be putting plans in place in anticipation of an increase in flexible working requests: 28% of parents and carers said their employer planned to allow more working from home, while 10% said their employer expected to support staff to flex their hours across the week.
Working Families urged employers to take a more strategic approach to flexible job design across their organisations to better support employees with caring responsibilities.