THE BIG REPORT ON FLEXIBLE WORK
Sample size: 718 respondents
In September 2019, we conducted an independent survey about flexible work in Ireland with over 700 people taking the time to respond.
The really great thing about surveys, is that people can express themselves freely and say what they really feel as opposed to commenting on a public post on social media or making your views known in a forum. And so, even though we were not very surprised with the results of the survey, which were, in the main, pro flexible work, some of the comments were downright shocking to read in the 21st century. Read on to find out more..
Our first question asked ‘Do you work in a flexible environment?’
53% answered yes which was higher than we had estimated and we were encouraged with this, bearing in mind that when we commenced Employmum/Employflex 5 years ago, most companies did not know what flexible work was! Some of the comments, however, were very disappointing:
I do start at 10AM instead of 9AM but only because I told them I’d have to leave if they didn’t let me do that. I’m a dad who does the school run.
No flexibility what so ever
My employer has a policy but not everyone has access to it. Depends on your department head.
They promote it but don’t really see it
It is on paper but not in practice
Advertised as flexible but no flexibility whatsoever when asked
The company policy says I do. In reality my direct manager makes it difficult
Clearly from these comments, many companies maintain and even boast about having flexible work practices, but the reality is, that when you scratch the surface, there is no real flexibility being offered.
What do people want at work?
A resounding 67% stated that having a flexible employer was more important, more than location of work (13.7%), even more than salary (8.5%), career progression(6.5%) and company perks such as wellbeing classes and casual Fridays (.5%)
The message is very clear – Employees want flexibility in the workplace – they do not want to be infantilised in the workplace – they want to be trusted to get the work done and they are not turned on by silly perks which most find patronising to some degree.
Certainly, job perks, career progression and level of salary are ‘nice to haves’ within any organisation but if people are being forced out of their jobs because of the inflexibility of their employers, if people are being forced to do long commutes at peak rush hour times, if people are stressed out because they cannot ask for flexibility when life’s curve balls are thrown at them, this is going to lead to an exclusive policy and you might as well throw the Diversity and Inclusion handbook out the window.
Some comments on what the most important thing in their job were:
A worklife balance which seems impossible in the corporate world
That I can work 100% remotely
Having a workload that is manageable within my contracted hours so that I have time to spend with my husband and children – time when I’m not exhausted from work.
All things being equal
Very interestingly for from an employer’s perspective, Over 92% of employees surveyed, said that, all things being equal, they would leave their current position if more flexibility was being offered by another company. As we reach full employment in Ireland, this is the most important result that employers should be taking account of .. if your competitor is truly offering a more flexible workplace, and not just lip service to the idea, your talented and experienced people who you have invested in are going to walk right into their arms. We have seen this happen here at Employflex.
We understand that to change from the traditional way of working with bums on seats from 9 to 5 to a more flexible environment can be a challenge, with companies claiming that there are barriers to making this happen. Companies we have spoken to talk about issues around:
Communication and collaboration
Insurance and Security
Managing a flexible team
Retraining managers and staff to work flexibly
We believe that all of these are surmountable and that is why Employflex have developed a flexible work toolkit to help you navigate from a traditional workplace to a workplace of the future – we can help.
What is flexible work?
There is a perception at management level within many organisations that flexible work equates to remote work.
It should be stated here that Flexible work does not equal Remote work – Flexible work can mean many ways of working.
Flexible work ≠ Remote Work
Flexible Work ≥ Remote Work
Our respondents stated their preferences for :
Full time with flexible hours
Full time with remote options
Compressed hours (E.g. working 5 days in 4 days)
Remote or part remote from home or co-working space
ROWE ( Results Only Work Environment)
Flexible mix of all of the above
Some degree of flexibility can be found in every role.
No flexible work policy
43% of people who responded to our survey were not even aware if their company had a flexible work policy or not.
The successful outcome of introducing a flexible work culture is dependent on having a fully thought out comprehensive flexible work policy. Employees should know exactly what their rights are when requesting flexible work and how they should go about this. We cannot stress enough how important this is so that everyone within an organisation knows their rights. As there is no legal obligation in Ireland for employees to request flexible work, an organisation must spell this out in their own policies.
Employflex have a sample flexible working policy which we can adapt to your company’s needs. Factors to consider are:
- Definition: Identifying and defining the types of flexible work that are available in each department
- Scope: Who the flexible work policy extends to
- Eligibility: Who is eligible for flexible work (e.g. possibly length of time in a company may be a discerning factor)
- How to make an application: What are the steps
- Responding to a flexible work request
- Trial of flexible work arrangement
- Legal and HR – employment contract update
The new EU directive on Work/Life balance states that parents with children up to the age of 8, will have the right to request flexible work, so this legal requirement will be coming into effect in the next 3 years in any case. Companies need to be aware of this and need to start planning their flexible work policy. We can help.
A legal right?
Not very surprisingly, we asked should we come in line with UK legislation, where everyone who has been working with an organisation for more than 26 weeks has the right to request flexible work and the response was a massive 85% in favour.
Again, some of the comments were eye wateringly honest:
In an ideal world-yes but I understand it may be difficult for customer facing roles, hospital roles. But even in these roles there should be give and take. If someone works over their hours in busy periods they should be able to take time back in quiet times. But in office based jobs yes they should be more flexible. Once the work gets done who cares if it’s at 8pm in the evening. Unfortunately many CEO’s are male and stuck in the old 9-5.30 regime and they can’t see beyond it.
Yes but there should be a clear policy of what this would entail to avoid abuse of flexibility.
It ultimately depends on the role- not practical for some jobs that need specific coverage. But no flexibility does not need to be the default
It will never happen, parental leave is even difficult to get in corporate world
One of the main headaches for companies currently is obtaining and retaining quality people – offering flexible work will, in the opinion of our survey, help companies retain their people (92%). This was followed by career progression, wellness in the workplace and perks.
Comments from our respondents were so interesting again and echoes what we are hearing daily from many employees around the subject of flexible work
Most companies offer all options except flexible hours
Offering all the fancy bits does not make up for good leadership. If your organisation leads by example, shows compassion, flexibility and an open mind that is what matters. People may say perks are the most important thing, but in the long term it is not. No matter how much you offer, if the company isn’t well run or employees don’t feel valued or safe they will leave.
My company does not offer any flexible hours or ability to work remotely from home. Much of the work I do involves analysis and development of papers which could easily be done from home.
Companies need to recognise importance of work life balance
Understanding family life is fluid. As long as your work is being done it should not matter, time or day
Wellness should naturally encompass flexible/remote working
Requesting flexible work – ‘My manager makes a funny face when I ask’
When asked, 56% said that would not feel confident asking for flexible work in their company for a myriad of reasons. 290 people took the time to leave a comment, obviously this is something that people feel very strongly about
I have been told that it would set a precedent. Really? And that is a bad thing?
I’ve been told outright that it isn’t available to me.
I am afraid to be seen as an inconvenience
My company does offer flexibility but it does not have to be upheld by individual managers. Makes for a very frustrating workplace.
It’s seen as a hassle for employers and if it is offered to one, that sets a precedent. I also think older style employers don’t trust people to do the work.
Culture is a barrier
Can reflect badly on you and your work ethic
There is an active policy to ensure no flexibility
They will say, if we give it to you then it will open the floodgates
A lot of companies still insist on having employees in the office and don’t trust them to work remotely/flexibly.
Culture of long hours = work
Very strict rules about flexibility… not approachable on this issue whatsoever
Afraid it limits career progression – it did!
It needs to be a policy, not a favour.
Senior managers have made clear that they are not comfortable with people working from home, except in the case of ”emergencies” or pressing reasons e.g. someone’s child falling ill. However, this is mainly among older managers who live in Dublin – a lot of bias towards their negative outlook on the need for flexibility. Also, it’s not fair that younger/junior employees or those without families are disadvantaged from flexible work. Flexibility should be open to everyone at all stages and from all circumstances, it’s a matter of health, well-being and the modern world of work and technology.
What we can learn from these honest comments from people in the real world is that there is a huge shift in culture change which needs to be addressed in the workplace when it comes to flexible work. People feel like they are being treated as children and that their employers do not trust them to get the work done on a flexible basis.
Ironically, where employers feel that their employees will not be productive in a flexible work arrangement, 98% of employees stated that they would be more productive if offered flexibility with reduced absenteeism and increased loyalty adding up to a more happier and productive team player
Our final question addressed the tangible effects that the availability of flexible work would have on a person’s day to day life
Over 40% said that it would afford them a better work/life balance with another 20% adding that if would make their lives less stressful and help them with their mental health.
Many commented that they would benefit from all of the advantages:
Better work-life balance
Allow quality time with family and friends
Make life less stressful
Allow career to progress
Reduced child care
We may be standing on the brink of the 4th industrial revolution where robots and artificial intelligence are going to play a huge part of our lives, but we do not hire robots, we hire people and the companies that acknowledge this by trusting their employees to work flexibly, are without a doubt, the ones that are going to gain competitive advantage in the future of work.
After attending the future jobs summit in Dublin last week with an impressive 7 ministers and An Taoiseach in attendance, I think Ireland as a country could gain competitive advantage over other countries if we get ahead of the curve and start nurturing a flexible workforce in order to obtain and retain the brightest talent globally.
Life is Short. Work Somewhere Flexible.