The traditional nine-to-five day has long been under threat, though the transition to a more flexible working timetable has not been an easy one.
Flexible working remains a difficult area, with staff who choose to do it saying they feel less valued or get labelled as uncommitted and unambitious.
A survey of 1,800 UK professionals published in June by Deloitte with Timewise, a recruitment consultancy specialising in part-time work, found that 30% of flexible workers felt they were regarded as less important, and 25% said they were given fewer opportunities than colleagues who worked conventional hours. A quarter also believed they had missed out on promotion.
It also counters that other trend in the workplace – presenteeism – whereby employees feel the need to be seen at their work even when they are unwell.
This does not fit into the agenda of those who are seeking a better work-life balance and want greater freedom from long hours stuck behind a desk.
The law states that all employees in Britain have the legal right to request flexible working though they must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks to be eligible.
Employers must deal with requests in a ‘reasonable manner’ which means assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the application, holding a meeting to discuss the request with the employee, offering an appeal process.
Some companies are responding by introducing formal schemes that encourage as well as accommodate requests for flexible work, and much of this change is down to it now suiting the businesses themselves who see gains in productivity as well as lower costs.
Big Four accountancy firm PwC has created a new scheme to give individuals the opportunity to work for the firm without being tied into a full-time contract and standard working hours.
They can choose a working pattern that works for them – whether through shorter hours or only working for a few months a year.
Those in PwC’s Flexible Talent Network will mutually agree a contract in advance, including a number of days that suits their lifestyle, and will be eligible for holiday pay, sick pay, pension and a bonus.
More than 2,000 have registered for PwC’s Flexible Talent Network in the first two weeks, showing the demand for more flexible work options. By offering different routes into the firm and recruiting based on skills, PwC is hoping to attract more diverse talent who might previously have dismissed the firm as an option.
Research carried out with 2,000 individuals across the UK shows that nearly half (46%) say flexible working and a culture of good work/life balance is the most important factor when choosing a job.
Laura Hinton, chief people officer at PwC, said: “People assume that to work at a big firm they need to follow traditional working patterns – we want to make it clear that this isn’t the case.
“In order to recruit the best people, we recognise that we need to offer greater flexibility, different working options and a route back in for those looking to restart their careers.
“We already encourage everyday flexibility for our people in how and where they work, but our Flexible Talent Network takes flexible working to a new level – allowing people to choose exactly how they want to work throughout the year.
“People in the network will get to spend their year their way, whether it’s because of caring commitments, entrepreneurs supplementing their income, people who want to travel or simply not work all of the year.
“Offering flexibility in how people work throughout the year is not only good for workers, but also for business, the economy and ultimately society. We’re likely to see a rise in people transitioning in and out of work throughout their careers and those organisations who responsibly support their people to do this will ultimately gain a competitive advantage.”