Why is “Flexible Working” Still So Inflexible?

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We live in a digital age, apparently. We have technology available at our finger-tips, supposedly. Why is it then that many businesses still can’t use this technology to allow their employees a better work / life balance?

According to a recent survey, a whopping 80% of employees say they would be happier with more flexible working options. Better work flexibility means greater happiness and more productivity for business. And yet why are we still not getting this quite right? Why is it that the majority of working people I know are still plodding through a 9 to 5 hour day for 5 days a week chained to their office desk?

My Ultimatum

Four years ago, I had a job that I loved in London. I went on maternity leave and was hoping to go back. I asked to return on a part-time basis but that wasn’t deemed possible. So then I asked if I could work from home but apparently that wouldn’t work with the systems in place. Eventually, I was told that I either had to return in a full-time capacity or not at all. And so I made the difficult decision to leave. I couldn’t face working full-time with a heavy commute, and leaving a young baby for so long.

It still makes me quite cross now. Why should this have to be the case? Why in this digital age can’t there be more working from home? Why can’t there be more flexi-time? Why can’t there be more job-sharing or part-time work?

A Question of Trust

I can only assume that it is because of a question of trust. If technology can make us all work faster, smarter and in any location, the reason most businesses don’t employ flexible working practices is because they are suspicious of what might be going on if they can’t keep a beady eye on their employees. Perhaps organisations think that if they can’t see their employees grappling with an excel spread sheet they may instead be at home with their feet up or putting the washing on dancing round the kitchen to Uptown Funk?

Their Loss?

I passionately believe that many businesses are losing out in not offering flexible working patterns. My talented sister used to work at a well-known children’s publisher, she quit her job along with 5 other senior, well-regarded women in one year because they would not allow any of them to work a 4 day week in the office and 1 day at home. This to me seems ludicrous. Surely it would be more beneficial for the organisation to try and accommodate these women than to go through the painful procedure of recruiting, training and replacing the staff who all had valuable years’ experience?

When I started writing this post I was mostly thinking about mums and how there should be more flexibility for working mothers. But really, why can’t there just be more flexibility for workers full-stop? Why can’t organisations trust their work-force to get the job done in whatever time suits them best? If employees are happy they will be more productive. Better productivity equals better profit. Output should be measured on achievements, not on how many hours are being clocked up at the office desk.

I’d love to know what you think. Are you a parent who would like the opportunity to have more flexible working hours? Would you be more productive if you could work from home more often? Or do you disagree with me entirely?!

0 thoughts on “Why is “Flexible Working” Still So Inflexible?

  1. This is an issue close to my heart and of many other mums I know. I also think that dads would benefit from a more flexible working pattern which in turn night help to support their partners continue with a career after having children, allowing for a greater balance all round! I can’t understand why we have a government that is keen to encourage women back into the work force when businesses aren’t being encouraged or incentivised into accommodating flexible working.

    1. Thanks for your comment Jen. I agree, this issue seems to affect so many people and I don’t understand why the government isn’t doing more to support flexible working. Should we start a petition?!

  2. A great read – and with some very valid points. I made a decision to start my own work from home business after I had children. I have many in my team now who find going back to a “conventional” job too difficult.

    1. Thanks Helen. Good on you for starting your own business especially with having children! I think women really assess their options after having kids and many decide not to got back to their original jobs. I just think it’s a shame that more work places can’t better accommodate mums.

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