Report pinpoints how to accelerate flexible working and gender diversity

Flexible working

A report published today sets out to “speed up culture change” acting as a blueprint for change and ensuring that the gender diversity agenda leads to real change in UK workplaces.

The study, from flexible working specialist Timewise and Deloitte, lays out a five-point plan designed to help employers do away with outmoded working practices and secure progress in the wake of last month’s focus on gender pay reporting. These are:

  • Leaders must provoke cultural change – challenge the status quo
  • Flexible working to be gender neutral – emphasise the value of male and female role models
  • Design flexibility into the job – ask “why not” rather than “why”
  • Influence the attitudes and actions of managers – provide the permission and tools to support a flexible workforce
  • Collect the data – measure the success of flexible working

A Manifesto for Change: A Modern Workplace for a Flexible Workforce is the result of a large-scale study, which includes a survey of almost 2,000 employees in addition to in-depth interviews with a diverse range of UK business leaders.

The research found that one in three of survey respondents felt they were regarded as having less status and importance because of their flexible working pattern.

Of flexible worker respondents, 25% reported missing out on promotion because of their status. Of those who would like to work flexibly but who currently do not, 39% believed their role could not be carried out on a flexible basis and 24% that their workplace was not supportive of flexibility.

When it came to wanting more flexible working, 73% of all respondents wanted their workplaces to reward people for the job they did rather than the number of hours they spent there.

The report’s findings reinforce the view that barriers to embedding flexible working are mainly cultural, often coming down to the attitudes and behaviour of managers. Most respondents agreed that organisations needed to reject passive policies and recruit and train managers who truly supported their team to achieve work/life balance (7 in 10) and implement a range of suitable flexible working options (6 in 10).

The report emphasises that for shared parental leave and flexible working to be normalised, men need to take a more prominent role in pushing for them. Independent HR consultant Judy Greevy said: “The main challenge is that it is regarded as a women’s thing. It is to do with childcare and being seen to be doing special things for special people. It’s not. It’s about having a culture where it is possible for people to work in different ways that is quite acceptable because they are still delivering
what you want.”

The report describes practical ways of tackling culture change, adding that managers should be called out for resisting it. It states: “Team colleagues who consciously or unconsciously undermine flexible workers must not be allowed to continue doing so.”

Keith Howells, chairman of employee-owned management and engineering consultancy Mott McDonald told the study: “The biggest challenge is dinosaur managers. We’ve always had a contract that says you are going to work 40 hours a week – but how many people actually work 40 hours a week? We don’t clock-on and clock- off, so why expect presenteeism? What is it? Why can’t we trust people to do what they are supposed to do because that is what it comes back to.”

Emma Codd, director of talent at Deloitte, described the advantages a flexible working policy had brought to the services giant. She said: “Now, work-life balance is no longer the main reason people choose to leave our firm; people actually choose to join us because of our approach to agile working. We have achieved this change simply by focusing on our culture, and ensuring we offer people options that really work for them and the firm.”

3 Responses to Report pinpoints how to accelerate flexible working and gender diversity

  1. Avatar
    Brian Marsh 22 May 2018 at 12:03 pm #

    Whilst I’m all for this, it obviously only really works well in jobs that can accommodate flexible working and there is always an assumption everyone should be able to access it. However, in manufacturing if a person does not operate a machine and produce an end product then no-one in that company gets paid. There is absolutely no opportunity for these people to be offered flexible working as these machines need to operate 24/7 so please stop pedalling this as a given right for everyone.

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    Antonia 29 May 2018 at 10:56 am #

    I had the misfortune of working with one organisation who agreed, prior to my acceptance of their offer, to allow for flexible working for health reasons. This did not materialise once I was in the role and I was made to feel like a nuisance for even making such a request despite my output, in their words, being of a consistently high quality.
    Culturally, they just weren’t ready to introduce the practice to anyone outside of the senior management team. And yes, presenteeism was evident there, with the majority working 10-12 hour days; the biggest culprits being the same members of management who opposed flexible working.

  3. Avatar
    Georgien 6 Jun 2018 at 9:28 am #

    It’s great that they’ve made culture the first step. Flexible working has become so easy with today’s technology and digital workspaces such as Workspace 365 or Best Place to Work and there are so many different types of flexible working which would benefit both employer and employee. However culture is indeed often the biggest barrier to making these types of arrangements succeed. I agree that training managers and influencing their attitudes and actions are also very important. However, only managers may not be enough – you could have the same issues with colleagues. So maybe, if you want to implement a culture like this, you involve everyone affected (managers who are already on board could be a great help here).

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